The latest prospect to emerge from Tampa's farm system pitched for the first time Wednesday: Matt Moore. I will get to the buzz about Moore in a second (Fangraphs calls him the the Rays best pitching prospect ever), but the debut of Moore was interesting. It started well. Entering the game with one out and one on, he coaxed a lazy fly ball to center and a weak ground ball to second to end the inning. He started the next two innings with two straight strikeouts (on 98 MPH fastballs). And then he was welcomed to the Major Leagues. Guerrero singled sharply to left, and then Weiters hit a fastball that got up about 25 rows deep in left field. The next batter doubled in the gap, and Moore was done.
The Rays are obiously hoping Moore can help the bullpen down the stretch the way David Price did effectively in 2008. The Rays pen isn't as good as Boston's, though given the departures Soriano and others it has been better than expected, though Kyle Farnsworth has blown two straight saves and is now resting his elbow.Bottom line Moore can help the Rays if he can perform.
How good has Moore been? Let's compare him to recent Rays pitchers, and for the hell of it to Steven Strasburg.
Moore's strikeout rate has been nothing short of amazing: it is significantly higher than Steven Strasburg's was. His Babip is higher than Strasburg's, though. Moore's AAA numbers are actually better than David Price's AA numbers. Fangraph compares Moore to Lincecum, Weaver and Hanson. They note:
In going through all the top pitching prospects that recently(-ish) reached the majors, Tim Lincecum and Tommy Hansonseem like the best comps to Moore. Not many starting pitchers strike out over 10 batters per nine in Triple-A, and the ones that do tend to transition quite well to the majors. If you have dominant stuff in Triple-A, you’re essentially already an above-average major league pitcher.
Fans freak out when top prospects are promoted to the majors, but some promotions justifiably deserve more fanfare than others. David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, and Desmond Jenningswere all received in Tampa Bay with much excitement, but Matt Moore….this guy should be on a whole other level. He’s in an elite class of pitching prospects, and he has a chance to burst onto the scene like Lincecum, Hanson, Weaver, and Strasburg. He’s dynamite, I tell you, dynamite.
Fangraphs thinks Moore will prove very effective immediately. Given the problems in the Rays bullpen, he may well wind up being the difference between catching Boston and letting them slip away.
One thing worth noting. Moore was an 8th round pick. The Rays have produced in the last 18 months Wade Davis, Jeremy Hellickson, Jeff Neiman, Alex Cobb (who pitched well before going on the DL) and Moore. I can't remember the last time one organization produced that many starters in so short a time.