August 28, 2012
Putting Matt Moore Under the Microscope
I can’t remember the last time a rookie starting pitcher entered the season with as much (or more) hype than Matt Moore this past spring. Even back in 2010, it was clear that Stephen Strasburg was going to start the season in the minors, so paying a premium for him didn’t make sense. Moore slow-roasted his way through the minors, as Rays prospects are wont to do, culminating with last year’s breakout season. He spent two-thirds of his season at Double-A (102 innings) and another third at Triple-A (53 innings), posting a ridiculous 1.92 ERA (powered by a 1.37 mark in nine Triple-A starts), 0.95 WHIP, 12.2 K/9, and 4.6 K/BB. The only number that could remotely be considered a blemish was his 2.7 BB/9 in the 155 innings. Otherwise, he was flawless.
He packed a lot into his 9 1/3 innings of major league work at the end of the season, including five shutout innings in a key game against the Yankees in the Bronx during which he fanned 11, allowed just four hits, and walked one. He followed that up with an even more impressive Game One outing in the American League Division Series, during which he threw seven shutout innings while allowing just two hits and two walks with six strikeouts in Arlington. Despite just 19 1/3 professional innings, Moore’s stock for 2012 was sky-high.
This preseason, he joined Mike Trout and Bryce Harper atop virtually every single prospect list. Spot number four ran the gamut, but it was always Moore with the two young hitters in the top three. Moore was a sure thing in a field that doesn’t have sure things. He even had some re-thinking their mantra and adjusting it to TINSTAAPPEMM (there is no such thing as a pitching prospect except Matt Moore).
The fantasy experts were on board too. In Tout Wars Mixed, he went for $14, which was actually a dollar more than Daniel Hudson, who had just put together a big season at the major league level with 16 wins, a 3.49 ERA, and a 1.20 WHIP in 222 innings; that was after shining for 95 innings the year before too. Brandon Beachy also went for $13 despite fanning 10.7 batters per game with a 3.7 K/BB in 142 innings the year before as a budding 24 year old. Those two failing due to injury doesn’t change the point, though. Expectations were high and everyone was buying in.
In the AL-version of Tout Wars, Moore pulled down a $19 salary, just a dollar lower than teammate James Shields, who was coming off of a brilliant 2011 during which he fell just 0.2 K/9 short of career-bests across the board (8.1 compared to 2010’s 8.3). The price was equal to C.J. Wilson, whose transition from the bullpen was a resounding success. After two big years with the Rangers, he was headed out west to LA. Getting away from Arlington combined with his major improvement in walk rate was setting the lefty up for another huge year.
While I am normally quite conservative with young arms, I was all in on Moore in my 2012 starting pitcher guide, ranking him 10th in the American League and 17th overall. Sure, his post-call-up dominance occurred in a tiny sample, but it was late season and postseason, so when combined with his minor league work, it was just so tantalizing.