Matt Moore, LHP
Tampa Bay Rays
BNH Prospect Rank: #11
Overall (62): A-
MLB Comparison: Barry Zito
ETA: Fall 2012
After finishing his 2010 season with 208 strikeouts, the Tampa Bay Rays’ Matt Moore– the 245th overall pick in the 2007 MLB Amateur Draft– led Minor League Baseball in strikeouts for the second consecutive season. Throughout his past two seasons pitching in the South Atlantic and Carolina Leagues, Moore has K’d an eye-popping 384 batters through 268 innings—a ratio equating to a ridiculous 12.9 strikeouts per 9 innings. Before then, in 2008, Moore led the Appalachian League in strikeouts, and was the Rays organization leader in ERA.
Moore’s star-studded, albeit young, professional career already includes four All-Star team selections, and numerous other accolades. After tearing apart high-school competition in New Mexico four seasons ago, the southpaw’s stock has sky-rocketed. Many scouts now consider him to be the top-left handed pitching prospect in the minor leagues. After a slow start to his 2010 season, Moore impressed even further with a line that included a 3.36 ERA and 208 strikeouts in 144 innings.
Strengths: (Curveball, Fastball Velocity, Fastball Movement)
Moore’s ceiling is sky high. He’s the rare southpaw with a premium fastball and plus offspeed pitches. At current, his best pitch is a plus-plus high 70s curveball, featuring sharp, late break. He throws the pitch with great depth and nice lateral movement, and it embodies the biting 12-5 wipeout hook that scouts want from a lefty pitcher. He puts ridiculous spin on his curve, and he uses it as a put-away-pitch pitch against lefties as well as he gets righties to go fishing for it in the dirt. If he can learn to control his curve better, he’ll have one of the best breaking balls in the Big Leagues.
Moore’s fastball made the jump from a plus offering to an electric, plus-plus fireball last season. He throws both a four-seamer and a two-seamer, and both pitches feature fantastic movement. Currently, his darting four-seamer is the better of the two, sitting between 92-94 mph and reaching 95-96 mph; His four-seamer might even be the best fastball among lefties in the minors. His riding two-seamer, sitting in the low 90s, has a nice tail and is quickly becoming another weapon. His easy delivery produces deception and makes his fastballs even more explosive.
Beyond his one-two combo of a nasty curveball and an explosive fastball, the Florida native also throws a heavy circle-changeup. Until now, he hasn’t needed to use his changeup very often, but the pitches’ screw-balling action and his delivery’s natural deception make give it (at least) average potential.
Weaknesses: (Inconsistent Mechanics, Command/Control, Experience)
With the mass of strikeouts Moore has tallied throughout his professional career, has come a susceptibility to walks and wildness. His mechanics, though improving, are unconventional and remain inconsistent. Although he can often place his fastball with precision, his control can quickly decay into unpredictable wildness. His stuff allows him to remain effective even when unable to control any of his pitches, but he’ll need to improve his command and control considerably before he’ll be able to survive in an A.L. rotation.
Despite his generally below-average control, Moore’s K/BB and BB/9 rates have steadily improved throughout the past three seasons, and with each promotion. By last September it seemed as if Moore was turning a corner and improving his command and control. After his wildness re-appeared in the beginning of 2010, Moore recovered and posted an awesome 10 start stretch to end his season. Pitching with the Charlotte Stone Crabs at the time, he posted a 1.53 ERA and struck out 92 batters (in 58 innings) while walking only 13.
Overall: Moores’ hard fastball, left-handedness, and wipe-out curveball make him elite and without a close comparison. His nasty curveball, strikeout potential, left-handededness and control problems all suggest that Moore could develop in to the Rays’ version of Barry Zito—with a better fastball. Like the early ‘00s version of Zito, Moore could rack up strikeouts and could make a career of posting flashy stat lines and stranding baserunners. He hasn’t pitched above A-advanced, though, and his age and experience level make his potential highly unpredictable. If he can’t stick in the Rays’ rotation he has plenty to offer out of the bullpen.