Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Matt Moore vs. Other Lefties

Matt Moore ranked #3 on our Top 15 Pitchers list, but opinion on him from the prospect community remains split. BaseballAmerica ranked him as the #35 prospect in the game, but Frankie Piliere at AOL Fanhouse and the ProjectProspect crew had him off the their top 100 lists completely(Keith Law's list has him at #81, which I suppose is just about splitting the difference). Moore didn't make MLB.com's top 50.

So here I'll compare Moore to some of the lefties who ranked above him, in terms of stats and scouting reports. Here's Moore's stats:
Year   Age           Tm   Lg Lev Aff W L W-L%  ERA  G GS    IP  H  R ER HR BB  SO  WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2007 18 Princeton APPY Rk TBD 0 0 2.66 8 3 20.1 12 6 6 1 16 29 1.377 5.3 0.4 7.1 12.8 1.81
2008 19 Princeton APPY Rk TBD 2 2 .500 1.66 12 12 54.1 30 22 10 0 19 77 0.902 5.0 0.0 3.1 12.8 4.05
2009 20 BowlingGreen SALL A TBD 8 5 .615 3.15 26 26 123.0 86 51 43 6 70 176 1.268 6.3 0.4 5.1 12.9 2.51
You can read our write-up on Moore here to get a rundown of his stuff, but basically the book on him is a solid fastball in the 90-93 range, a plus curveball, makings of a decent change-up, and control and command that need work.

There are of course some prospects that are "clearly" better than Moore in that just about everywhere has them ranked higher. Brian Matusz of the Baltimore Orioles, for example, is a lot closer to the majors(in fact, in the majors) with much more polish and control. He might lack Moore's raw stuff, but Matusz still has a very good repertoire. Moore could equal or better Matusz's ranking as he gets closer to the majors, but for now Matusz is pretty obviously the better bet, and is deservedly ranked higher.

Another is the Giants' Madison Bumgarner. His stuff may have slipped in 2009, but just take a look at Bumgarner's 2008 season in the SAL against Moore's 2009:

Year Age Tm Lg Lev Aff W L W-L% ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2008 18 Augusta SALL A SFG 15 3 .833 1.46 24 24 141.2 111 28 23 3 21 164 0.932 7.1 0.2 1.3 10.4 7.81
2009 20 BowlingGreen SALL A TBD 8 5 .615 3.15 26 26 123.0 86 51 43 6 70 176 1.268 6.3 0.4 5.1 12.9 2.51

Bumgarner was younger and was better almost entirely across the board. Moore struck out more per 9, but at 10.4 Bumgarner wasn't hurting in that department, and his advanced control/command more than make up for that. Bumgarner is less than two months younger than Moore and has had great success at much higher levels, including the minors. Even with diminished stuff, Bumgarner beats Moore rather easily.

Another prospect ranked higher than Moore across the board is Texas lefty Martin Perez. In fact, Keith Law has Perez over both Matusz and Bumgarner(Perez is ranked 7 by Law, 9 by Piliere, 17 by BA, 18 by MLB.com, and 26 by ProjectProspect). Perez's raw stuff not only rivals Moore's, it might be better. Perez works in the 91-94 range with his fastball, and his curveball is one of the best in the minors. Perez's pitchability(he can add and subtract velocity to his pitches as he needs to do) and control(career BB/9 of 3.4 as opposed to Moore's 4.8) are both better, too. Perez pitched in the SAL as an 18-year old, with a season kind of similar to Bumgarner's 2008, just with a worse BB/9, before a late-season promotion to AA. Taking Perez over Moore looks like the correct move.

There's yet another lefty ranked higher by consensus: Colorado's Christian Friedrich. Ranked 12 by Piliere, 23 by MLB.com, 33 by BA, 36 by Law, and 88 by ProjectProspect, Friedrich was a 2008 1st round pick out of Eastern Kentucky University. Friedrich was second in the minors in K/9 in 2009, his 12.0 trailing only Moore's 12.9. Friedrich, who's about two years older than Moore, pitched 45 innings in the SAL before being promoted, and in those 45 innings, posted a 13.1 K/9. His stuff rates out a bit below Moore's, but he's still in the low-90s with his fastball along with two solid breaking pitches and a raw change-up. Friedrich is able to hit the strike zone more consistently than Moore, but his command within it still needs work. The Rockies started him a level lower than most college 1st rounders, but he has the ability to move quickly in 2009. This debate is closer then the previous three, but I would take Friedrich at this point.

At this point I should briefly touch on two lefties who don't have any pro stats to compare to Moore's but who have been just about universally ranked higher: Colorado's Tyler Matzek and Cincinnati's Aroldis Chapman. Matzek was the Rockies' 2009 first rounder and was ranked above Friedrich by BaseballAmerica. He was the top prep arm in the draft, and his scouting report backs it up: Fastball in the mid-90s and two promising breaking pitches, all with clean and easy mechanics. And Chapman is of course the Cuban defector who wowed everyone at the World Baseball Classic in 2009. There's no question about his fastball, which is in the upper-90s and has flirted with 100. A year and change older than Moore, both have similar shortcomings in regard to command. Chapman's secondary pitches have a ways to go, as he relies mainly on his great fastball. Moore vs. Chapman is the first debate where I'd really consider picking Moore. He doesn't have the same fastball, but his curveball is much better, and their control/command is probably a wash, while Moore has the age advantage.

From here on out, no one is rated higher than Moore by all of the outlets. The next one we'll look at is Mike Montgomery of the Kansas City Royals. He's ranked 34 by Piliere 39(the one ranking where he's lower than Moore) by BA, 43 by MLB.com, 52 by ProjectProspect, and 75 by Law. Here's Montgomery's 2009 line, between low-A and high-A, shown next to Moore's:

Year Age Tm Lg Lev Aff W L W-L% ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2009 19 2 Teams 2 Lgs A-A+ KCR 6 4 .600 2.21 21 21 110.0 80 34 27 1 36 98 1.055 6.5 0.1 2.9 8.0 2.72
2009 20 BowlingGreen SALL A TBD 8 5 .615 3.15 26 26 123.0 86 51 43 6 70 176 1.268 6.3 0.4 5.1 12.9 2.51

It should be noted that despite the apparent age difference, Moore is only about two weeks older. It just so happens Montgomery was born on the cut-off date, July 1, so he's counted down to 19. The Royals selected Montgomery in the 2008 supplemental first round. He offers lively stuff, with a fastball in the lower-90s that creeps into the mid-90s. He throws two different kinds of curveballs, though Moore's presently rates better. His change-up shows real potential and may wind up becoming his best secondary pitch. In roughly equal time between his two levels, his strikeout rate was 8.1 and 8.0, though curiously his walk rate fell from 3.7 to 2.1 when he was promoted to the Carolina League.

Despite the big disparity in strikeout rates, Moore and Montgomery each posted roughly the same hit rate. Moore's BABIP was .045 higher, but both were within reason(.319 and .274 for Moore and Montgomery respectively). Given Montgomery's stuff, it's reasonable to assume that he was able to induce weaker contact. His strikeout rate would bug me more(8.0 is good, but not great for his stuff) had it not stayed virtually the same with his promotion. I don't think he has the control to continue posting 2.1 BB/9 rates, but it's fairly evident that he has the better present control than Moore, though as noted in our Moore write-up, his BB/9 after May was 3.8.

So we have the classic question of higher ceiling vs. safer bet. Of course, Montgomery's projectable body might put the "higher ceiling" part up for debate, but that's another matter. I think that each pitcher is in the "correct" organization insofar as I think the Royals would prefer Montgomery(the "safer" choice, more likely to move quickly and help the big league club) while the Rays would prefer Moore(they're stacked pitching-wise, so even if Moore isn't able to tap into his considerable potential at the higher levels, the Rays can absorb that blow thanks to their prospect depth). Taking the organizations and as much bias as possible out of the equation, I would be inclined to pick Moore by a hair. His strikeout and BAA numbers are simply so dominant that he needs only average command to become a very good starter in the majors.

Another interesting pitcher to look at is Baltimore's Zach Britton. Keith Law was most bullish on him, placing him at #25. ProjectProspect had him 51, Piliere put him 55, and BA has him at 63. Like Moore, Britton went unranked in MLB.com's top 50. Posting the stat-line that I've done for other pitchers would hide Britton's biggest strength, his ability to get groundballs. Pitching as a 21-year old in the high-A Carolina League, Britton had a terrific 3.38 GO/AO. His stuff was also good enough to strike out 131 batters in 140 innings, an 8.4 per 9 rate. His control is probably a touch better than Moore's is, but he led the Carolina League in wild pitches with 21. His 3.5 BB/9 isn't too bad, and he keeps everything down in the zone, but he needs to throw more strikes. Britton doesn't have the kind of ace potential that Moore does, but in what's becoming a recurring theme, he's a safer bet to stick in a big league rotation.

This post has gone on long enough, but there's plenty of other lefties that have a case to be ranked over Moore, or vice-versa. For BaseballAmerica, the other lefties in their top 100 are: (44) Nick Hagadone, (47) Casey Crosby, (78) Chad James, and (100) Noel Arguelles. For Frankie Piliere, he had (41) Manny Banuelos(who I just don't think has the frame to remain a starter), (43) Mike Minor, (47) Andy Oliver, (78) Daniel Schlereth, (82) Casey Crosby, (93) Nick Hagadone, (94) Tyler Matzek and (98) Trevor Reckling ranked in his top 100, and thus above Moore.

ProjectProspect only had one lefty not mentioned here in their top 100, (48) Jon Niese. Keith Law had (48) Casey Crosby and (77) Trevor Reckling ahead of Moore, with (96) Manny Banuelos and (100) Nick Hagadone behind him.

In a future installment, I'll look at Moore's season in a more historical context, and take a look at what pitchers who posted seasons/careers similar to Moore's through the SAL have gone on to become.

1 comment: