I keep an eye on the comings and goings of visitors to this website throughout the week and one thing is certain – Matthew Moore is popular by people who end up on this blog via a search engine result for “Matt Moore Rays.” Moore gets more references than any other player in recent weeks in the search terms so he definitely deserves the attention.
Moore has been covered many times here over the past year or so and you can click here to see a full list of his appearances in posts. His most popular post is the one where he gave a video interview to the Port Charlotte Stone Crabs staff about what he throws.
The Rays have a very special prospect on their hands in Moore who was ranked as one of the 16 best prospects in all of the minor leagues by Baseball America, ESPN’s Keith Law, and Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein and is widely considered to be one the three best left-handed pitching prospects in all of baseball. Last season, Moore pitched 144.2 innings in the Florida State League and went just 6-11 despite a 3.36 ERA and striking out 208 batters. His 12.9 strikeouts per nine innings was the best total of any starting pitcher that has pitched at least 100 innings in a single season in Florida State League history dating back to 1989.
Note that only three of the first 19 pitchers on this list have gone on to be even slight contributors at the major league level in Cliff Lee, Kerry Wood, and Doug Davis. Also note the Rays were in this same situation in 2007 as Jacob McGee tore through the FSL striking out 145 while walking just 39 in 116.2 innings. Unfortunately for the Rays and McGee, he tore his ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow the next season which slowed his path to the major leagues that was stride for stride with Wade Davis when the injury happened. For his sake and for our sake, let’s hope Moore avoids what McGee went through and most certainly avoids what Brien Taylor went through. I had the pleasure of seeing Taylor pitch that year and watching he, Justin Verlander, and Carlos Marmol pitch in Florida State League games in my lifetime were memorable experiences. When you sat down and watched those three pitch, it was easy to see they had major league futures and scouts believe Moore could be a front of the rotation pitcher with this stuff if he reaches his talent ceiling.
The knocks on Moore at this stage in his career are becoming more polished and avoiding slow starts as he tends to be wild in April and May before getting into a groove and shutting down hitters for the final three months of the minor league season. The Rays are quite deliberate with their pitching promotions as fans have witnessed watching David Price, Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis, and most recently Jeremy Hellickson ascend to the big leagues. James Shields is under team control for the next two seasons and in an ideal world, he pitches well enough in 2011 to justify exercising that 2012 option and then allows Moore to compete for a job in the spring of 2013.