Nostalgia Prospect Retro: Jamie Moyer
Jamie Moyer was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the sixth round of the 1984 draft, out of St. Joseph's University. The Cubs assigned Moyer to Geneva in the New York-Penn League after he signed. His pro debut was excellent: 9-3, 1.89 ERA in 14 starts, with a 120/31 K/BB in 105 innings. He allowed only 59 hits. Moyer's K/IP and H/IP marks were those of a power pitcher, but his style was finesse: mediocre fastball, decent breaking stuff, excellent changeup, sharp control. College-trained pitchers with this style usually have a pretty easy time in the low minors, so Moyer's early pro performance was not a guarantee of success at higher levels. I would probably have rated him as a Grade C+ prospect pending higher level data.
Moyer began 1985 with Winston-Salem in the Carolina League, making 12 starts with an 8-2 record, 2.30 ERA, and 94/22 K/BB in 94 innings. Excellent numbers. Promoted to Double-A Pittsfield at midseason, he went 7-6, 3.72 in 15 starts. However, his K/IP ratio declined sharply: 51/32 K/BB in 97 innings. The strong drop in K/IP was an indication that his approach was not as effective against more advanced hitters, a sign that further adjustments would be needed. Given the K/IP decline, I would have left him at Grade C+ in all likelihood.
Moyer returned to Pittsfield in `86, going 3-1, 0.88 in six starts. His K/IP went back to previous standards, 42 in 41 innings. Moved up to Triple-A Iowa, he went 3-2, 2.55 in six starts but his K/IP slipped back again, to 25 in 42 innings. Moyer moved up to the Cubs for half the season, going 7-4, 5.05 in 16 starts with a 45/42 K/BB, allowing 107 hits in 87 innings. He pitched well at times but was also overmatched at times. His component ratios were not very good at all. I remember thinking at the time that he needed additional Triple-A exposure.
The Cubs had Moyer in the rotation in `87 and `88. He won 12 games but with a 5.10 ERA in `87. He won just nine in 30 starts in `88, but actually pitched better with a 3.48 ERA and much improved components, cutting his walk rate in half. Nevertheless, the Cubs seemed frustrated with him and he was traded to Texas.
Moyer struggled with injuries and general inconsistency for the next few years, but found new life with the Mariners in the mid-90s. He has been a very successful pitcher for a decade now, continuing to win despite a loss in velocity because of guile, location, movement, and trickery.
As a prospect, Moyer was a classic example of the college-trained finesse lefty, dominating the low minors, but having some problems in his first exposure to advanced hitters. The collapse in his strikeout rate when first reaching Double-A is typical for this type of pitcher. The thing is that many guys like this fail to adjust their game. Moyer did, turning an 85 MPH fastball and a changeup into a 200+ win career.