Reasons to be excited about Matt Moore
LHP Matt Moore's numbers are impressive enough, with a 12-3 record, 1.92 ERA and 210 strikeouts in 155 innings at Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham this season - his first above Class A. But even more impressive are the comments from teammates and coaches who worked with him in the minors and rave about his work ethic and attitude.
The transition to the bullpen will be a challenge - he hasn't worked in relief since a few appearances for rookie-level Princeton in 2007, his first year in pro ball - but if he can handle it, he could be a key weapon for the Rays down the stretch - and into the postseason.
The Rays are likely to use Moore cautiously at first, like in a sixth- or seventh-inning situation. But, especially with Kyle Farnsworth idled with an elbow issue, the opportunity for more work will be there.
Here's what ESPN's Keith Law, a former assistant GM, had to say in his midseason rankings, which ad Moore the second best prospect in the minors behind Washington's Bryce Harper:
Analysis: He has three above-average to plus pitches and easy velocity, and has improved his control this year. All of that adds up to a No. 1 starter. Preseason Ranking: 16
Here's what ESPN's Jason Grey, who has a scouting background, had to say after the Futures Game:
He's listed at 6-foot-2, but that's a little generous. Then again, it doesn't matter. He has a loose arm that was bringing fastballs in the 96-98 mph range in a short stint, with what scouts call "easy" velocity. In All-Star Games, where prospects only throw one inning, we often see the radar gun lit up a little higher because the pitchers don't have to hold anything back, but it was impressive nonetheless. The late life on his fastball, getting run on the arm side, just adds to its effectiveness.
The tilt on Moore's 86-88 mph slider makes it a nasty pitch, and though he didn't really get a chance to show it off in this game, the reports on Moore's circle change this year state that it is much improved as well. Moore's progression this year has not been just about strike one, but also about the development of his changeup to give him a legitimate third weapon. Despite striking out 208 batters last year, Moore said the organization told him he needed to go to his change more this season.
Here's what Baseball America had to say after ranking him third in its mid-season prospect ranking, behind Harper and the Angels Mike Trout:
Improving command paired with three plus pitches is a devastating combination.
And here's what Baseball America had to say after seeing him in the Futures Game:
The player scouts came away buzzing about the most was Rays lefty Matt Moore, who came even better than advertised. Moore typically works around 91-95 mph as a starter, but in his one-inning stint today he ramped his fastball all the way up to 98, then backed it up with a nasty mid-80s breaking ball. He retired all three hitters he faced, struck out Mariners third baseman Alex Liddi on a breaking ball and threw first-pitch strikes to each hitter he faced. Moore said those first-pitch strikes have been the key to him taking the next step this season.