Adam Foster

Young Arms

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What to Expect From Moore

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The best part about watching Matt Moore pitch is seeing how much he has to learn and how quickly he’s learning. Equipped with three plus pitches, Moore has the arsenal to make mistakes at the big league level and get away with it. He’s a potential ace and an interesting young arm to study.

Evidenced by his high walk rates in the low minors, he didn’t turn pro ready to shoot up to the majors. He’s been a work in progress. And though he found success against big leaguers last year, Tampa Bay’s 22-year-old lefty has metamorphosized into a different pitcher this year.

Moore’s made two big changes from 2011 to 2012. He’s now pitching with a quicker tempo, which adds to his deception and helps all of his pitches play up. He’s also gone from a big, slurvey curveball to a sharper, downward-breaking pitch.

The new curveball makes him a very different pitcher. While he can use it as a weapon in the dirt against righties, it lacks the horizontal break to get lefties to chase out of the zone. In concert with his changeup, it’s a power off-speed offering that he can surprise hitters with and will be able to use to finish them. He just needs to get a better feel for burying the new pitch. I’d put a 60 present grade on it and a 70 future grade.

His four-seam fastball sits in the mid-90s with excellent life. Though he has solid command of it, he’ll get more swing-throughs as he gains confidence pitching inside and locates better up in the zone. He doesn’t have the sink or plane to get a lot of ground balls, but he’s starting to throw a sinker, which has good movement and velocity. His four-seamer is at present an 80 grade pitch. His sinker could be just as good.

Moore has gained a lot of confidence in his changeup, which has solid tumble and fades away from righties. He’s able to get righties to chase it off the outside corner as well as in the dirt. He does a good job selling the pitch. I’d give it a 65 present grade and a 75 future grade.

On top of some speed bumps with nibbling too much on the outside corner and struggling to get ahead of hitters, Moore currently doesn’t have many pitch sequences to shut down lefties. His old curveball broke with enough horizontal movement to get them to chase outside -- like a slider. Now, he’s trying to put lefties away with his four-seamer more than with his curveball. And it’s not really working: 1.017 OPS against lefties vs. 0.686 OPS against righties. He should be able to figure things out though.

Moore has shown the ability to hit his spots with his fastball and to overpower hitters. I’d give him a 45 present grade for control/command. With reasonable progress, he could up that to 50 by year’s end and begin to string together outings like his last one more consistently. I see a high-probability No. 1-2 starter long term -- that can rarely be said about guys his age -- and a solid bet to be a well-above-average starter for the rest of 2012.

Another Notable Arm

Earlier this month, I wrote about some of the top teenage pitching prospects in the minors. Let’s look at a high-upside arm who could be ready to pitch in the big leagues this season.

Danny Hultzen
, SEA, Double-A

Hultzen pitches from a low-3/4 arm slot that’s far from pretty. But Double-A hitters are having more trouble making contact against him than any other young pitcher at that level. Over his last 19.0 innings (three starts), Hultzen has struck out 25 batters while walking four. He’s adjusted to pro ball quickly and could reach the big leagues -- and make an impact -- before the all-star break.

Founder of Project Prospect, Adam started contributing to Rotoworld in 2012. He can also be found on Twitter.
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