Prospect of the Day: Matt Moore, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Tampa Bay left-hander Matthew Moore turned heads in the 2011 MLB Futures Game Sunday night, posting an impressive inning of work against the World Team, showing a 98 MPH moving fastball that put scouts in a state of ecstatic communion with the baseball gods. I had Moore as a Grade A prospect pre-season, and the Number Four pitching prospect in baseball; if anything, his stock has risen. Let's take a look.
Moore was drafted by the Rays in the eighth round in 2007 from high school in Moriarty, New Mexico. He performed well in the Appalachian League in 2007 and 2008 (fanning 106 in just 74 innings of work), then posted a 3.15 ERA with a 176/70 K/BB in just 123 innings for Low-A Bowling Green in '09. In 2010, he fanned 208 in 145 innings for High-A Charlotte, with just 109 hits allowed and a 3.36 ERA, walking 109. He led the minors in strikeouts in both '09 and '10.
Transitioning to Double-A Montgomery in 2011, he's been even more effective: a 2.14 ERA in 97 innings, a 125/26 K/BB, with 61 hits allowed. He's maintained the outstanding K/IP ratio and low hit rate, while lowering his walks, against better competition. Overall in his entire career, Moore has a 2.79 ERA in 439 innings, with 615 strikeouts and just 298 hits allowed, walking 192.
The 6-2, 205 pound Moore isn't doing this with junk pitches: as he showed in the Futures Game, he's got a very live arm. He doesn't normally throw 98 MPH, working more commonly at 90-95, but even at the lower velocity his fastball has considerable movement and can be overpowering. He mixes it with an outstanding breaking ball, and his changeup has developed into an above-average pitch. The combination of the three gives him a complete arsenal. Add greatly improved command over the last year, and you have a truly elite prospect.
Moore has the physical, mental, and statistical attributes of a future number one starter. The main risks at this point are injury or slippage in command. He's been very durable so far in his career and I don't think his injury risk is any higher than the typical 22-year-old..
We'll have to see how the command issue plays out, but pay attention to this little statistical nugget: in his last 155 innings between this year and last, he has a 217/39 K/BB ratio with 94 hits allowed. I'd say his command is coming along just fine.