Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF): Top of the rotation piece that dominates in every respect and is a number two starter even in his “off” years.
The Player: Matt Moore (LHP, Tampa Bay Rays) – The Rays nabbed Moore in the eighth round in 2008 despite being a highly regarded prep prospect. He signed for just over $100,000 and he hasn’t stopped dominating the minor leagues since. He has consistently ranked among the top strikeout artists in the minor leagues, finishing as the top guy in both 2009 and 2010. The 2011 season may have been his best campaign yet with a 1.92 ERA across the two highest levels of the system. He made his MLB debut with an outstanding five-inning start against the Yankees and then started the first game of the playoffs for the Rays, completely dominating the Rangers.
Body: Good frame with average height and a solid build. Well proportioned with broad shoulders, a strong core and improved strength in his legs.
Makeup: Everyone from inside the Rays organization to opposing scouts raves about his work ethic and overall makeup. He nit-picks his own abilities and finds the smallest things to work on and improve his game. He is the type of pitcher that could find something to work on following a dominating Cy Young level season.
Delivery/Mechanics: Quick from start of delivery to balance point. Brings knee to chest in fluid motion, remaining on balance. Glides down the slope of the mound toward home plate. Lightning fast arm that keeps up with his body well. Good follow through with proper extension out front. Finishes strong and balance square to the plate and ready to field his position. Everything looks effortless.
Fastball (FB) Velocity (Wind-up): High – 97, Low – 92, Average – 93-95, Grade – 70/70
Fastball (FB) Velocity (Stretch): High – 97, Low 92, Average 94-95, Grade – 70/70
Fastball (FB) Movement: The ease of his delivery deceives hitters and the ball gets on them very quickly. He has good life on the ball, particularly when he elevates and goes for the strikeout. He seems to have a little jump on his ball when he works up the ladder. Has toyed with imparting spin on the ball and has the aptitude to develop some sink or cut. Grade – 50/60
Overall Fastball: Plus-plus velocity and pitchability/intelligence to increase movement on his fastball. Natural deception really helps FB play up. Doesn’t project for more velocity but doesn’t need it. Grade – 70/70
Curveball (CB): Scary. Hard over-hand break with tight spin and swing-and-miss ability. Throws it in any count with confidence. Potentially elite breaker that could rate among the best in the game. Some scouts saw him get around it at times and it was still an outstanding breaking ball with more slider-like movement; hasn’t officially added SL to arsenal. Grade – 70/70
Change-up (CH): Really stepped forward last year. Circle grip with good arm speed and deception. Has sink and fade when it’s on with potential to be a third plus pitch. Needs more consistency but almost a fully refined pitch. Grade – 50/60
Control: Pounds the strike zone. Easy, repeatable delivery allows for consistent strike throwing. Will overthrow once in a while but still only tends to miss up in the zone rather than outside the zone. Grade – 60/70
Command: Moved from throwing strikes to pinpointing them in the zone in 2011. Locates FB to all four quadrants with regularity and can paint off both sides when he wants to. Can finish CB in the zone or leave it outside as a chase pitch. CH command is still coming but at least average already. Plenty of projection for more improvements. Grade – 50/70
Summation: Everything exists in the present for Moore to be a dominating front of the rotation force. He still has change-up and command projection that could cement his future even more. He is still improving his ability to field the position and his pickoff move has become a solid tool to control the running game. Also gets to the plate quickly to help his catcher on steal attempts. Could be a top of the rotation stud right now without any further improvement and could be one of the best pitchers in the game if he fine tunes the change-up and command even more.
Relative Risk: Low. He’s big league ready and hasn’t had a hint of injury in his career. He doesn’t have a weakness in his game and he could sit atop of the Rays rotation immediately.
Future: The Rays have five legitimate young big league starters without Matt Moore in the picture. If they shift Jeff Niemann from the rotation that would clear room for Moore to start the 2012 season in the big leagues. They could also opt to send him back to Durham to start the season to see if they can maximize value for one of their current starters. Either way, every expectation should be for Moore to play a significant role in Tampa this year and for many years to come.