Minor-League Monday: Matt Moore

Everyone likes a little attitude from their players, but sometimes youngsters straddle the line between immature and obstinate. Drafted in the 8th round in 2007 by the Tampa Bay Rays, Matt Moore was one of those players. Immensely talented and confident, Moore’s attitude was a cause for concern as the Rays coaches tried to smooth his complicated delivery, but Moore dominated rookie ball and Low-A until a roadblock in High-A caused Moore to reassess his situation.

Moore has great stuff. His fastball sits in the 92-95 mph range, and with great extension out front, the ball seems to jump on the hitter, making it extremely difficult to hit. To this fastball, Moore adds a swing-and-miss curveball and a change-up that is developing into another plus pitch that simply needs repetition to improve command. His delivery, however, is a bit complicated, and the more complicated, the more difficult the windup can be to repeat. If you can’t repeat it, it’s hard to develop command, leading to walks and pitches that catch too much of the zone.

That became a major problem early in 2010. Walking over 6 batters per nine innings and with an ERA north of 6, Moore realized something had to change, and he allowed the coaches to rework his delivery and grip slightly to get more on top of the ball. What happened next was one of the most dominating June-August stints a minor-leaguer can have, allowing less than an earned run per start and posting ridiculous strikeout numbers. While he still went out of whack occasionally, his control and command vastly improved, and in combination with his ability to strike guys out (he’s lead the minors in strikeouts the last two seasons), he shot to the top of prospect lists, frequently coming in second on Rays’ lists to Jeremy Hellickson. The only left for Moore was to repeat his success.

And he’s done so. Striking out 13 batters per nine with amazing consistency, Moore is down to 11.6 this season, but that’s still an awesome total for a 21-year old in AA. The best part, however, is the walk rate, which is now down to 2.4. Losing that amount of walks is more important than losing that amount of strikeouts (baserunners being so important), so Moore is improving.

Now, the only problem with all of this is, oddly enough, the Rays. The Rays are traditionally a conservative organization with pitchers, and considering their success, there’s no reason to question it. Moore, therefore, is not going to be rocketed through the system. It’s hard to understand him not being promoted soon, but there’s little chance of him being called up to the majors if there’s not an injury. Talent, however, is not a problem as most might believe. Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis won’t stand in the way of Moore. If he’s ready, the Rays will bring him up, but with their philosophy (which I don’t disagree with), that isn’t likely to be soon.