Matt Moore Player Projection No. 69

Key Stats: Before making his first appearance on September 14th, Matt Moore was all the buzz in fantasy baseball last year. Owners knew that if he was to be called up, they instantly had a starter that was better than their two or three worst starters – worst case scenario. The problem was Moore never came up. This despite the fact that he had 210 strikeouts in 155 innings at two levels. His strikeouts per 9 innings was 1 and a half batters higher than the best starter at the MLB level last year. Of course there’s a huge difference in facing MLB hitters, but consider that Moore did strikeout 23 in 19.1 innings between the regular season and playoff cup of coffee he got last year. 

His ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts to walks also sparkled in the minors all season. He is much hyped and there is good reason to believe that he can back it up as Rookie of the Year in 2012. 

Skeptics Say: Stud rookie pitchers mean a ton to their franchise because they don’t grow on trees and they have a say in the success of the organization does many years into the future. Expect Moore to be treated with kid gloves in terms of pitch counts and innings. Less innings per start means less strikeouts and of course a lower probability that he can get a win. There’s still questions about if he can adjust to MLB hitters. Moore probably had the advantage the first time he faced guys, but next year the scales will start to tip. Facing the Yankees and Red Sox offense won’t be easy – especially in his second and third starts against those teams. 

Peer Comparison: The most hyped starting pitcher in recent memory and perhaps all-time coming up was Stephen Strasburg. Here’s a look at Strasburg’s only 11 starts in the minor leagues before he was called up and a look at Moore’s last 11 starts in the minors:

Player

Innings

ERA

WHIP

Strikeouts

Walks

Age

Strasburg

55.1

1.30

0.80

65

13

21

Moore

58.1

1.54

1.03

86

20

23

The two pitchers aren’t that far apart. Perhaps looking at Moore’s first 11 starts might be a more appropriate comparison, but there’s something else that’s important to understand here. Strasburg of course hasn’t pitched much since he made his debut in the big leagues. Unlike Strasburg, Moore was not at all rushed to the big leagues. As it is detailed below, Tampa Bay always does an outstanding job keeping their arms strong. Although Moore is not completely worth trusting simply by virtue of being a younger pitcher, there’s reason to have a little more confidence in him staying on the field. 

Team Outlook: Though many a fantasy owner went bald pulling their hair out in waiting, the Rays were justified in keeping Moore in the minors. They did the same thing with David Price and Jeremy Hellickson, and so far it has really paid off. In fact the Rays pitching staff in general over the past couple of seasons has had remarkable health. Among the players currently in the rotation, only Jeff Niemann has not made at least 29 starts in a season since joining the rotation. Given that the team could go with a six-man rotation this season, it’s possible that health will once again be a strength in the rotation for the Rays. 

What They’re Saying: CBS Sportsline: #5 Relief Pitcher; Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN.com: #24 Starting Pitcher & #94 Overall; Mock Draft Central ADP: #36 Starting Pitcher & #154 Overall; RotoChamp: #83 Overall 

Projection: This is the highest that Moore is going anywhere, but assuming he can crack the rotation and stay healthy, I will gladly reach for the upside. 
13 wins 2.97 ERA 1.20 WHIP 206 K in 184 innings