Rays Have a ‘Nice Problem’ with Matt Moore

The Tampa Bay Rays organization has kept pace with powerful organizations in the American League East division for the past few years for one key reason: The ability to develop cheap, high-impacting talent through minor league development.

Entering 2011, the Rays’ FanGraphs Top 30 prospect list began with Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, and Desmond Jennings. Both Hellickson and Jennings have already cemented themselves as key MLB contributors . Moore – who was just promoted to the Majors for a ‘cup of coffee’ to finish off 2011 – should follow suit in ’12.

As I stated prior to the 2011 season:

“Moore could easily be a No. 1 prospect in a lot of organizations. He plays second fiddle in Tampa Bay’s system, though, to Hellickson. The club has been exceptionally patient with the young southpaw, moving him up one level at a time during his four-year career… he projects to develop into a No. 1 or 2 starter.”

It seems a little hard to believe, given the praise that I heaped upon him before the season beban, but Moore has gotten even better. The 22-year-old southpaw began the year with double-A Montgomery and was nearly unhittable with opponents hitting just .185 against him (5.98 H/9) in 102.1 innings. His strikeout rate sat at 11.52 K/9, which is actually the lowest it’s ever been in his pro career – but far and away above league average. Moved up to triple-A for the final 52.2 innings of his season, Moore posted a strikeout rate of 13.50 K/9 and an opponents’ batting average of .178. Those quad-A sluggers did not faze him one bit.

The big reason for Moore’s improvements in 2011 can be seen in his walk rate. He posted rates of 5.12 BB/9 in 2009 and 3.79 in ’10. His rate in ’11 fell to 2.46 BB/9 in double-A and 3.08 in triple-A. Along with better control, the former eighth round pick out of a New Mexico high school also showed better fastball command, which helped him set up his secondary pitches, which include a swing-and-miss curveball. If there is one thing that I’d still like to see him improve upon, it’s his ground-ball rate, which sat at just 41 percent in triple-A. Increasing his ground-ball output will further help him while competing in the homer-happy AL East (Four AL East clubs are in the Top 5 in team home runs).

Wisely, although he’s clearly MLB-ready now, the organization resisted temptation to rush him through the Majors or promote him too quickly. His promotion now, though, gives him a chance to experience a playoff race and, if all goes well for the Rays, post-season atmosphere. Moore would have been added to the 40-man roster in November anyway (to avoid being eligible in the Rule 5 draft). His 155.0 total innings in ’11 is a modest increase over his 144.2 innings from a year ago so he shouldn’t see much action the rest of the way.

The biggest issue that Moore faces – right now – for 2012 is the lack of an available spot in the starting rotation, which is already quite strong with David Price, James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson, Jeff Niemann, and Wade Davis. The club could easily enter 2012 with six starting pitchers in preparation for an almost inevitable injury, or it could look to cash in on a strong ’11 season by veteran right-hander Shields (4.8 WAR). A trade could net the club some more offense. The Rays could also deal Niemann (1.5) or Davis (1.1), although both pitchers currently have depressed trade values.

Even though Shields’ trade value is at an all-time high, I would hang on to him. The organization is in ‘winning mode’ and both the Red Sox and Yankees are aging and vulnerable despite strong 2011 campaigns. A move of either Niemann or Davis to the bullpen, at least temporarily, would solve the problem of the depth in the starting rotation, as well as the lack of the same in the ‘pen.

However things play out, though, Moore should be a key member of the 2012 Tampa Bay Rays starting rotation – and an early favorite for Rookie of the Year.



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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects, depth charts and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.


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big league chew
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big league chew
4 years 9 months ago

can we get a scouting reports?

Sandy Kazmir
Member
Sandy Kazmir
4 years 9 months ago

This was from a visit to Buffalo a few weeks back. http://www.draysbay.com/2011/8/13/2361340/idiots-guide-to-scouting-matt-moore

I’m not a professional scout and my seats were from behind the 3B dugout.

donald
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donald
4 years 9 months ago

are u like related to scott kazmir? not a chance right?

buster ohnley
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buster ohnley
4 years 9 months ago

gotta love how all the idiots who said james shields was on the trading block come deadline in august. he in fact wasn’t even available.

bender
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bender
4 years 9 months ago

Everyone is available for the right price

CircleChange11
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CircleChange11
4 years 9 months ago

How are his pitches/IP numbers?

When I see a guy with K-rates like that, combined with previous walk rates, I see a guy that can be unhittable, but pitches himself out by the 5th/6th inning far too often.

But damn, looking at his stats page it looks almost videogame-ish.

———————————-

Some of his mechanics remind me of Casey Fossum, a slight lefty that able to throw very hard … namely due to very late shoulder rotation and very good shoulder/hip separation.

The ‘red flag’ would be that he during his stride, he raises both elbows above his shoulder (call it inverted W or “M” if you want).

Sounds like they’re going to use him similarly in how they used Price when he was first called up.

Steve
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Steve
4 years 9 months ago

Are you serious about Fossum? I’m pretty sure he sat around 86-88 mph. Pitch FX has him at 87.2 mph on his fastball for his career.

I am concerned about his backside mechanics though. His front side mechanics are decent, but it’s hard for power pitchers to sustain velocity without pushing off their back foot with more power than what I’ve seen from Moore. Maybe his mechanics are better than I saw (it was of the futures game on youtube), but that is relatively concerning for me.

mbrady16
Member
mbrady16
4 years 9 months ago

I know Wade Davis is pretty young, but couldn’t they sell high on him? He’s had some recent good starts and may close the season well and has good velocity on his fastball. I’d say they probably prefer Niemann to him at this point.

Raepaep
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Raepaep
4 years 9 months ago

I’m inclined to think that this was the Rays plan at the start of the season when they signed him to that contract. However, trading him now wouldn’t be ‘selling high’, since his struggles the first half of the year were largely his own doing, and not a physical or skill problem. As it is, they may still move him in the off-season, but it’s not a ‘sell high’ trade because he’s better than what he’s shown this year.

mbrady16
Member
mbrady16
4 years 9 months ago

How is he “better than he’s shown this year” exactly? He had plenty of starts last year and he profiles right now as a low walk 5-6 K/9 type of guy. Jason Hammel, also a former Ray with good velocity, comes to mind. The last few starts might get a team to bite thinking he’s turned it around, or that his velocity will play up in a weaker division.

Jacob
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Jacob
4 years 9 months ago

it seems to me that the Phillies are doing well with 6 starting pitchers this year. i would think money plays the biggest role in the Rays decision.

Josh
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Josh
4 years 9 months ago

Not bad for an 8th rounder

John
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John
4 years 9 months ago

Where would Cobb fit in the rotation? He has to be better than both Niemman and Davis. Would the Rays move two people to make room for both Cobb and Moore?

Robert J. Baumann
Member
Member
4 years 9 months ago

This is my question as well.

RC
Guest
RC
4 years 9 months ago

Look across at Boston, and you’ll see why you always need more pitchers.

AndyS
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AndyS
4 years 9 months ago

Rays have a nice problem with their entire roster.

Next season I think you can expect to see Upton, Shields, and Niemann go and be replaced by Jennings, McGee, and Moore.

Erik H
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Erik H
4 years 9 months ago

McGee isn’t going to be starting.

Ace
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Ace
4 years 9 months ago

Boston is in panic mode now, because the Rays are too close for comfort!

RC
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RC
4 years 9 months ago

Boston being in panic mode has nothing to do with the Rays. It has everything to do with them losing 4 of their top 5 pitchers at this point.

Then they replaced a couple, and lost them.

Beckett – Hurt
Lester – playing well, healthy
Bedard – Hurt
Buchholz – hurt -season
DiceK – tommy john
Lackey – has an elbow problem, sucks. needs Tommy John
Wake – 600 years old.
Andrew Miller – sucks.

Whether or not the Rays catch the Sox really doesn’t matter, the Red Sox are dead men walking at this point. They’ve got Jon Lester, and then 4 guys who are looking up at replacement level.

Greg
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Greg
4 years 9 months ago

How did a lefty who throws in the upper 90’s fall into the 8th round and sign for so little money? Was he a guy who everyone thought was a sure bet to be a reliever or something?

donald
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donald
4 years 9 months ago

lol bro, he throws 95 tops. and im sure he didnt throw 91mph in high school. he was probably 86-87 tops at age 17.

6/18/89 is his b-day

small school in new mexico, no scouts swarming over there.

the small town kid has a lot to prove and the competetion in the ray farm helps develop these kids into men.

the farm is a cest pool for young men.

mbrady16
Member
mbrady16
4 years 9 months ago

Actually if you read the piece Steve S. just posted, Matt did indeed throw 91-92 out of high school according to him.

Dan
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Dan
4 years 9 months ago

95 tops? did you see him at the futures game this year he topped out at 100

NEPP
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NEPP
4 years 9 months ago

The Futures Game had a hot gun. Everyone was throwing 2-3 mph harder than they really could…per pitchfx anyway.

Xeifrank
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4 years 9 months ago

Matt Moore has thrown around 155 innings so far this year. He could easily end the season with around 165 with a spot start and some bullpen work. Add another 25-30 on to that for next year and we are looking at 190 IPs. That’s pretty close to a full time load for next year. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out next spring.

Ben
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Ben
4 years 9 months ago

To Donald: He doesn’t top out at 95. Although I’m sure the radar gun readings were high and he was pumped up by the atmosphere, at the Futures Game he hit 99 several times. He probably tops out at 96-97 mph in reality.

donald
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donald
4 years 9 months ago
Sandy Kazmir
Member
Sandy Kazmir
4 years 9 months ago

Keep in mind that was stadium gun, but all reports have Moore able to sit 92-93 while amping it up even more when needed. Out of the pen it’s not crazy to see him hitting 98 and sitting 95. He’s essentially the best of Jon Lester, though he does appear to be a bit on fumes over his last couple of starts. A week or two of rest or sitting in the pen could rejuvenate, but it’s not a guarantee.

k-dog
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k-dog
4 years 9 months ago

95 from a lefty is pretty good. 96 is what d price gets on a normal day. 97-98 when he eats the wheaties.

is matt moore a strasburgh type hype guy???? i mean moore and stras on a keeper league right????????? thats like kershaw and lincy back in 2006 right?

Andrew
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Andrew
4 years 9 months ago

If the rays don’t make the playoffs and it becomes apprent they won’t be a contender in 2012 would you guys consider it a possibility that the rays trade shields to boston or the yankees due to lack of starting pitching depth. In return they would get some 1b help such as a lars anderson and some young starters such as a betances ranaudo or something along these lines

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