Spring training is right around the corner, so it’s as good a time as any to take a look at the 2012 Tampa Bay Rays. This is a talented team from top to bottom, and has as good a chance as any of making the playoffs. Each part in the series will focus on a key player – what they’ve done so far, and what they’re capable of doing in the future.
With a grand total of 9 1/3 innings in his major league career, Matt Moore of the Tampa Bay Rays was tasked with starting game one of the playoffs against the Texas Rangers. The move was risky, insane, and brilliant all at the same time. Having faith in your young players is one thing, but Joe Maddon and the Rays made a bold statement about Matt Moore, and he redeemed their faith in him by throwing 7 innings of shutout baseball. The Rays would go on to win 9-0, and while they didn’t win the series Moore showed the world what he was capable of.
Moore was an 8th round pick in the 2007 draft, and right from the beginning you could tell the Rays had picked a winner. His career strikeout rate in the minors was 12.7 K/9, which is simply unbelievable for a pitching prospect. He struggled with command throughout his career, at times looking like Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn from Major League. However the Rays were careful with Moore’s development, typically letting him spend a year in each level before challenging him with a tougher environment.
In the offseason the Rays signed Matt Moore to an absolute bargain of a contract. He’s guaranteed 14M over 5 years, and if all the options are used he could make as little as 40M over the next 8 seasons. Considering he could be one of the best pitchers in the American League as early as 2012, that’s simply an incredible bargain. I wrote about his contract back in December, and it shows just how much the Rays could save if Moore turns out to be an Ace on the level of Tim Lincecum, Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander.
So what can we expect from Matt Moore? Moore’s innings were built up enough in the minors so that unlike most younger pitchers he should not be on an innings restriction. Even in his first season he should be one of the best strikeout artists in the American League, keeping up with Justin Verlander or even Brandon Morrow. If anything will hold him back, it’s his lack of control. Moore walked 3.1BB/9 in his stay at AAA and the walk rate was fairly similar in the majors. However if Moore can post an elite strikeout rate, the walks won’t be a major problem.
Moore might already be the best pitcher on the Tampa Bay Rays, which is a bold statement considering their staff is led by David Price and James Shields. He’s one of the best young pitchers in the game, and the likely Rookie Of The Year winner in 2012. The Rays should be in fantastic shape during the season, and no team would want to face Price, Shields and Moore in the playoffs. The sky is the limit with the young southpaw, and the Rays cannot wait to unleash Mooreon the rest of the American League.
2012 Prediction: 3.3o ERA, 16-7, 8.8 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 1.18 WHIP.