Friday, February 19, 2010

Top 15 Pitchers: #3 Matt Moore

Matt Moore
6'2" 205 lbs DOB: 6/18/1989
Left-Handed Pitcher
Bats: Left | Throws: Left
2009: Bowling Green Hot Rods
Acquired: 2008 Draft, 8th Round, 245th Overall

After the Rays selected him in the 8th round in 2008, all Matt Moore has done as a professional is strike batters out with remarkable consistency. In his three pro seasons, his K/9 rates are 12.8, 12.8, and 12.9. The third number really catches the eye, because he was able to slightly improve on the already outstanding number while making the jump from Princeton to Bowling Green. He led all of the minors in strikeouts and opponent batting average in 2009.

There's no question Moore has the stuff to pitch at the top of a big-league rotation. His fastball works in the 90-93 range, through he can dial it up a little higher at the expense of control. His curveball is already a plus pitch, constantly generating swings and misses. His change-up has great action, though he's still inconsistent with it. He works down in the zone with all of his pitches, and has allowed only seven home runs in nearly 200 career innings.

What Moore needs to work on is his control and command. Even during the 2009 season, though, he made strides. In 35.1 innings pitched in April and May, he walked 33 batters(roughly 8.4 per 9 innings). From June onward, he walked 37 in 87.2 innings, a much more acceptable 3.8 per 9. He also uncorked 13 wild pitches. Even when he does get it over the plate, he hasn't been able to work the corners, instead just relying on his stuff to get hitters out.

Control/command is all that's holding Moore back from being one of the minors' premier prospects. He walked only 3.1 batters per 9 in 2008, though that was his second year in the Appalachian League where he easily outmatched the rookie-level hitters. He won't develop the plus control of Andy Sonnanstine or Jeremy Hellickson, but he showed in the second half of 2009 that he can keep the walk total out of the danger zone. If he can get the BB/9 down into the 3.0-3.3 range, he should be more than okay since his stuff is good enough to limit hits.

He was able to carry his strikeout rate into full-season ball, but it's reasonable to assume it dips a little bit as he faces more advanced hitters. Still, Jake McGee(pre-surgery) was considered a big strikeout pitcher and he was punching out a batter and a half less per 9 innings than Moore, so a small drop-off is no big deal. The key for Moore in 2010 will be to throw more strikes, and to make them quality strikes, so he's able to work deeper into games. He was limited by pitch counts early in the season, but even later he often had to come out early due to throwing too many pitches. He was only able to work at least 6 innings five times out of 26 starts.

He'll pitch the 2010 season as a 20/21 year old, debuting in the Charlotte rotation. If he shows the second-half control improvements were for real, he could be in line for a mid- or late-season bump to Montgomery.

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