Many young pitchers are granted their MLB debut late in the season, and for Matt Moore it was no different, yet the Tampa Bay Rays prospect started his second game in the 2011 ALDS against the Texas Rangers, allowing only two hits amidst six strikeouts through seven scoreless innings.
Under the circumstances, Moore pitched one of the most impressive games of the season in that playoff appearance, and as such earned himself a five year deal in Florida, and a No. 2 prospect ranking heading into last season, which saw him win as many games as he lost (11), pitching for a 3.81 ERA and 8.9 K/9 in 177.1 IPs.
An impressive late season stretch included a one-hit outing against the Miami Marlins, but it is Moore’s consistency that is leading him to become one of most exciting young starters in the AL.
Behind 2012 Cy Young Winner David Price and equally as-exciting young SP Jeremy Hellickson, Moore could play a part in one of the more dominant rotations in the American League this season, but he will be out to ensure he doesn’t follow the path of many before him, in failing under the pressure, and losing his starting job.
With the ‘prospect’ tag now gone, Moore is no longer under the spotlight of an expectant fan base or press corps. In fact, the Florida native has blended into the roster perfectly, and is considered to be one of the guys.
He recently told TBO.com “I like being able to feel just normal, just go out there and pitch and not wondering how it’s going to go necessarily,” which is great during spring, and may even carry over to the regular season, but after a few starts, Moore may find himself beginning to miss the attention.
Not to say he needs to fulfill any over-sized ego, but with press scrutiny comes utmost concentration, and without the former, the later may well slip. His performances in 2012 seemed to get better throughout the year, but that was under the moniker of a potential AL Rookie of the Year.
With Mike Trout taking that award in the end, Moore has no such prize awaiting him at the end of the 2013 season yet with additional pitches being added to his arsenal, it is not something he needs to work towards.
Working alongside arguably the best pitcher in the league, he can focus his efforts on following in David Price’s footsteps. Moore’s blazing fastball is without a doubt a jewel in his crown, but by adding a significant second pitch, such as a slider, Moore could find himself on the path to becoming a superstar.
One thing Moore will look to count on in 2013 will be more wins. His stat line looked good in his rookie season, but improvements can be made to a .500 record, given the support he can expect from a strong lineup that will hopefully include a fully-fit Evan Longoria.
If you don’t know much about Matt Moore, get strapped in and watch how his 2013 season unfolds, because it could be a blinder.