Results tagged ‘ Matt Moore ’

A pitching renaissance in the postseason

It’s nothing new to rave about young pitching, but watching the Division Series this year, I couldn’t help but be struck, not just by how many young pitchers are on playoff rosters, but by the important roles they’ve been giving. The results may be uneven, but it’s amazing how often teams are putting the ball in the hands of some fairly inexperienced hurlers, confident that they are the best options at the time.

By now, I’ve written enough about Matt Moore to be the official spokesman of his fan club. But he’s Exhibit A, right? A top prospect who started in Double-A, got a September callup and not only won Game 1 of the ALDS, but threw three more relief innings in Game 4. Of course, he wasn’t alone on that Tampa staff. Jeremy Hellickson, the potential AL Rookie of the Year, started Game 4.

Game 5 between the Yankees and Tigers is tonight. New York’s best (only?) option: Ivan Nova, the right-hander who might give Hellickson a pretty good contest in ROY voting. Mind you, this is a guy who got sent down earlier this year. He’s been nothing short of sensational since his return, of course, and won Game 1  once it resumed post-suspension.

In last night’s Brewers-Diamondbacks game, Arizona brought Jarrod Parker into the game in the sixth inning with a 7-3 lead. Yes, he gave up two hits, a walk and a run, but the fact Parker is even on the postseason roster is somewhat amazing. He is, after all, in his first season following Tommy John surgery. After shaking off the rust in the first half, he was tremendous in the second, helping Mobile win the Double-A Southern League title. He got a late September callup and appeared in one game, a very solid start. With his relief outing in Game 4, that brings his career total of games out of the bullpen to… let’s see here… one.

There’s more… Bryan Shaw joins Parker in that Arizona bullpen with 33 Major League games under his belt and has been perfect in three NLDS appearances. Rookie Al Albuquerque has become an important part of the Tigers bullpen and appeared in two games against the Yankees.

Obviously, I think it’s fantastic and a further sign of where the game is these days. Even the teams with deep pockets have to rely on young pitching, developing their own.

Meanwhile, in Panama…

After dropping their first game, Team USA has won two in a row against Chinese Taipei and Japan. Through three games, few have been more impressive than Pirates middle infield prospect Jordy Mercer, who’s now 5-for-12 with three extra-base hits and five RBIs.

Our friends from the Top 50, Brett Jackson and Travis d’Arnaud, continue to do well (the team is hitting .309 overall). Jackson is 4-for-12 and d’Arnaud is 3-for-8 with three doubles. A somewhat forgotten prospect, A.J Pollock of the Diamondbacks, is 3-for-9 with a homer.

And, finally, the AFL. There was more offense yesterday, shockingly. There’s now been 76 runs scored in five total games. That’s 15.2 runs per game, if you’re keeping score at home. As friend and colleague Kevin Goldstein pointed out via Twitter (@Kevin_Goldstein) recently, the AFL averaged 5.8 runs per game in 2010. So, to summarize: They are a tad ahead of pace so far this year.

The Rays rotation and notes from the AFL

I got a question on Twitter that I thought was worth throwing out there to everyone:

What does the Rays rotation look like in 2012? Should they trade James Shields?

This is relevant here, obviously, because it’s all about Matt Moore. He looked like he’s ready for prime time, which should give the Rays a very nice problem to have next year. People talk about Shields because he’s the most expensive pitcher in the rotation. If the Rays exercise the team option in 2012, he’ll get $7 million. Considering he was an All-Star and the anchor of that rotation, that’s a relative bargain. But the Rays also are working with a somewhat limited budget, so it will be interesting to see what happens.

Jeff Niemann was left off the playoff roster, but that was more because of his lack of success vs. the opponent than anything else, though I’m sure there are those who will read into that more.

Bill Chastain wrote that it’s likely all of the starters — and we haven’t even talked about Alex Torres or Alex Cobb (with Chris Archer coming into play later next year, I think) — will come to Spring Training and have one heckuva competition. Don’t know about you, but I’m booking my trip to Port Charlotte now.

Great quote from David Price in that Chastain piece: “I think I’m going to start my workouts in a couple of hours to make sure I can still be in this rotation.”

So here’s the official question: If you were building the Rays staff on Opening Day 2012, what would be your five-man rotation?

Leave any ideas in comments below.

On to the AFL…

Only two games were played yesterday in the Arizona Fall League, with the night game (the one where Bryce Harper, Mike Trout and Gary Brown could’ve been in the same outfield together) being rained out. That’s right, rained out. Red Sox prospect Alex Hassan has a good post about it over on the AFL Prospects blog.

It probably shocks no one that there was a bunch of offense in the other two games. Kind of par for the course in the Fall League, after all. Seven homers were hit in the two games with a combined total of 41 runs crossing the plate. Lots of potential Stars of the Day from a hitting standpoint, but the guy atop the list has to be the pick:

Josh Vitters, Cubs: 2-4, 2 HR, 5 RBIs, 1 SB
Robbie Grossman, Pirates: 2-4, HR, 2 RBI
Anthony Gose, Blue Jays:  2-5, HR, 2B, 3 RBI, 2 R
Alex Castellanos, Dodgers:  3-6, 3 RBI, 2B, 3B
Matt Adams, Cardinals: 3-5, 3 RBI
Jaff Decker, Padres: 4-4, 2 RBI

There is only one Pitcher of the Day candidate: The Reds’ Brad Boxberger (and he’s blogging to boot) . Boxberger got the save for Phoenix, completely shutting the door on Mesa in a 12-8 slugfest. Not only did Boxberger pitch a perfect inning and a third to get the save, he struck out all four batters he faced in less than optimal conditions.

The Rays sure know how to grow pitchers

At least one person had to be thinking that watching Matt Moore strikeout 11 Yankees over five innings last week.

Matt Moore was just starting to get going when he pitched for the Bowling Green Hot Rods in 2009.

Granted, the Yankees had just clinched the AL East, but still. Considering Moore had already had a phenomenal Minor League season that saw him strike out 200 for the second year in a row, he didn’t really have to do anything else to establish himself as arguably the best pitching prospect in the game. Yet there he was, in Yankee Stadium, helping the Rays continue their improbable Wild Card chase and giving Rays (and other) fans food for thought about what Tampa might do with their rotation in 2012.

The issue, of course, is how there’s currently no room in said rotation. The possibility of a Garza-like trade of James Shields has been mentioned and Moore’s readiness can at the very least allow the Rays to contemplate a move such as that.

But that’s not what this post is about. This is more about the scouting and player development work the Rays have done to get them to this point. The case of Moore shines a light on that even more. After all, David Price as the No. 1 overall pick is supposed to succeed (though we all know not every top pick has done so). Jeff Niemann was also a first-round pick (No. 4), so there is some level of expectation there as well. Rookie of the Year candidate Jeremy Hellickson was a fourth-round selection, though he got half a mil (read: above-slot) to sign.  Wade Davis went in the third round of the 2004 Draft and it’s a testament to the patience of the player development department in Tampa on how he was allowed to come along at the pace that worked for him (ditto for Niemann, by the way).

Shields, somewhat ironically since Moore could be the guy replacing him, is a fantastic example of great scouting and very good development. Shields was a 16th-round pick back in 2000 and spent close to five seasons in the Minors before establishing himself (he missed the 2002 season).  The irony comes from the fact that Moore is the next best example of simple, good scouting.

Coming out of high school in New Mexico in the 2007 Draft, Moore was a known guy, but it wasn’t widespread and not one of those prep arms people are buzzing about going in the first couple of rounds of the Draft. One team I spoke with said their area guy didn’t even have Moore on his list that June. Another former area scout liked Moore a little, but couldn’t get the higher-ups out to New Mexico to see him.

Moore was, according to this scout’s take, rough around the edges. He was throwing around 91 mph, occasionally a touch more, with below-average command. He had a hard slider, but it was sweeping. And he had no changeup at all. The arm worked well, but he wasn’t one of these, tall, thin a projectable types so there was the chance that he’d be what he was then. He was very low profile, a kid from a very small town east of Albuquerque.  Moore wasn’t really on the radar at all until about April of his Draft year and scouts in the area didn’t know what to make of him.

Obviously, Rays scout Jack Powell did and he helped convince the Rays to take a shot on Moore in the eighth round of the 2007 Draft. And this wasn’t a signability drop kind of thing, a guy who needed first-round money to sign and slid as a result. The Rays got Moore for $115,000 and that’s looking like one of the biggest Draft bargains in recent memory.

In the end, this area scout had the best final assessment of what happened that year:

“Bottom line: Jack Powell can frickin scout, man.”

And the Rays future is brighter because of it.

Minor accomplishments?

With the Minor League regular season winding down and the playoffs starting next week (congrats to the Brewers for winning the rookie-level Arizona League crown – Reds 2010 first-rounder Yasmani Grandal caught for the Reds in that title game), some players are putting on the finishing touches of some fine statistical performances. What they mean or how impressive they are might be in the eye of the beholder, but maybe some context will help.

Let’s start with Matt Moore, the Rays left-handed pitching prospect. With 11 strikeouts on Wednesday, he surpassed the 200-strikeout plateau for the season and is up to 208. That hasn’t happened since 2005, when Francisco Liriano did it (204). It’s the most K’s by a Minor League pitcher since Clint Nageotte piled up 214 back in 2002 (that turned out well). Moore would potentially have one more start to eclipse that number, but with his Charlotte Stone Crabs playoff-bound, they’re going to save him for the opener of the postseason.

It sound fairly impressive and rare… until you dig a little deeper. In 2001, for example, twoMatt Moore.jpg pitchers topped 200 K’s, Josh Beckett and Brandon Claussen. David Williams did it in 2000, John Stephens hit the mark in 1999 and, get this, there were six at 200 or above in 1998. So it’s more that it hasn’t happened so much recently, perhaps because teams have gotten so much more cautious with innings and pitch counts.

Perhaps more intriguing is that Moore will end up leading all of Minor League Baseball in strikeouts for the second consecutive year. He topped MiLB with 176 K’s in his first taste of full-season ball in 2009.  He’s got a 12.9 K/9 rate over the last two seasons and I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a full-time starter with a better rate than that in the same time frame. I went back as far as 1990 and didn’t find a single instance of a pitcher winning back-to-back strikeout titles in the Minors. How significant is that? You decide, but it’s at the very least an interesting factoid.

On to the other bit of statistical fun. I read recently how Giants prospect Brandon Belt joined a small and elite group of Minor Leaguers to go 20-20-20 — 20 doubles, homers and steals. Right now he’s got 40 doubles, 22 homers and 22 steals, numbers that make him a definite candidate for MiLB Hitter of the Year. The only other player  to pull off this feat so far is the Mariners’ Nick Franklin, who in his first full season is at 22-22-25.

How special is this triple play? I’m not sure. There are several players who are close to reaching the plateau: Melky Mesa (21-19-31), Jerry Sands (28-34-18), Danny Espinosa (18-22-25), Domonic Brown (22-20-17) and Brad Snyder (33-23-17). Brown might be the most impressive since he’s spent 25 games in the big leagues. Snyder is up now with the Cubs, so he won’t get any further.

I think it’s a nice feather in the cap, but keep in mind that 14 players did it in the big leagues in 2009, albeit in a longer season. On the flip side, only two have gotten there so far this year.

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