Tag:Matt Moore
Posted on: February 3, 2012 4:26 pm
 

More kids to watch: Moore, Montero, Arenado

Heading to spring training 2010, Stephen Strasburg was the big new name, the guy everyone had to see . . .

Until people started talking about Jason Heyward, too. And Aroldis Chapman.

It was still the spring of Strasburg, but it really became the spring of the phenom.

This spring could be the same.

The early focus is again on the Nationals, who seem determined to give Bryce Harper a real shot at making the opening day roster (which they didn't do with Strasburg in 2010).

But there are tons of other names, tons of other young players with some shot at opening the year in the big leagues, and an even better shot at opening eyes this spring.

An early look at a few names to watch, besides Harper, who colleague Jon Heyman wrote about separately:

Matt Moore, 22, Rays. The situation has changed only a little bit since Moore got everyone so excited last September and October. Moore signed a long-term contract in December, which seemingly lessens the financial incentive for the small-budget Rays to have him begin 2012 in the minor leagues. But the Rays haven't yet traded any of their other starting pitchers, so there's not yet an open spot in the rotation. The decision on what to do with Moore will be closely watched.

Jesus Montero, 22, Mariners. He can hit, but can he catch? And can he hit enough to make a difference for the Mariners? Those questions will get better answers during the season than during the spring, but as the key player going to Seattle in the big Michael Pineda trade, Montero will be watched and discussed.

Jacob Turner, 20, Tigers. The Tigers tried for Gio Gonzalez and they tried for Roy Oswalt, but they still don't have a fifth starter. Turner is the most exciting name among many candidates. He's probably less likely to end up with the job than some of the others, but on a team that has no problem with promoting young talent (Justin Verlander, Joel Zumaya, Rick Porcello), he will get a chance.

Trevor Bauer, 21, Diamondbacks; Danny Hultzen, 22, Mariners; Sonny Gray, 22, A's. Who will be the first pitcher from the 2011 draft to make it to the big leagues? Bauer, Hultzen and Gray all go to spring training with some chance, and whether they make it or not, all three will likely excite people every time they're scheduled to pitch.

Nolan Arenado, 20, Rockies. Arenado won a lot of fans among scouts who covered the Arizona Fall League, with one saying: "He's Edgar Martinez at the plate, with the best hitting approach I've ever seen from a young player." The signing of Casey Blake no doubt lessens Arenado's chance to make the team this spring (for now, he's ticketed for Double-A), but if he hits in spring training the way he did in the fall, the Rockies will at least begin talking about it.

Julio Teheran, 21, Braves; Randall Delgado, 21, Braves. The Braves got a look at Teheran and Delgado last year, but with health concerns about Tim Hudson, Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson, the look this spring may be more significant.

Posted on: September 21, 2011 1:08 pm
 

Should the Rays trade pitching for hitting?

NEW YORK -- The Rays have a chance in the wild-card race because their rotation is better and deeper than those of the big-money Yankees and Red Sox.

The Rays are at a serious disadvantage in the wild-card race because they aren't nearly as good at scoring runs as they are at preventing them.

The Rays have more pitching coming, including Matt Moore, perhaps the best pitching prospect in baseball. The Rays have some emerging position players (including Desmond Jennings), but not enough.

The answer, to some rival scouts and executives, is clear: This winter, the Rays need to trade pitching for hitting.

Andrew Friedman understands, but the Rays general manager isn't sure he agrees.

"Starting pitching depth is very fleeting," Friedman said. "While we have it right now, we can't wake up one day with [only] three or four starters, where we have to go looking on the market.

"We're absolutely doomed if that happens. We're certainly not going into the winter saying we have too much starting pitching."

Friedman insists he was never close to trading a pitcher at the July 31 deadline, even though opposing teams believed that both Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann were available then. Teams were more interested in James Shields -- the Reds and Tigers had serious interest -- but all agree that the Rays weren't willing to move their ace. It goes almost without saying that the Rays wouldn't trade David Price or Jeremy Hellickson.

The question is whether they would move Shields -- or anyone -- this winter.

While it might be more comfortable to move Davis or Niemann, and put either Moore or Alex Cobb in that spot, it's obvious that Shields would bring a far higher return. Also, Shields' salary goes up to $7 million next year, which is cheap for what he gives but potentially expensive for a team that has real payroll issues.

But trading Shields could hurt the Rays beyond his 15 wins and big-league high 11 complete games. There's no doubt that Shields is the leader of a rotation that is as tight as it is talented.

"Shields is very much a part of the fabric of this team," Friedman admitted. "When we talk in spring training with our prospect pitchers, we often say, 'Go watch James Shields. Go emulate what he does.'"

Would Friedman trade Shields, or one of his other starters? Will Friedman even be the one making the decision, or will he leave the Rays for the Cubs or Astros?

He's not saying, and like his team, he's made a habit of surprising people.

But there is truth to what Friedman said. For the Rays, trading pitching for hitting isn't as simple and clear-cut as it sounds.


Posted on: September 18, 2011 8:56 pm
Edited on: September 18, 2011 10:21 pm
 

3 to Watch: The doubleheader edition

BOSTON -- The Yankees don't have enough pitching. The Red Sox don't have enough pitching.

The low-budget Rays? They have enough pitching.

Crazy, isn't it?

If the Yankees or Red Sox had Matt Moore, you can be sure he'd be starting a game this week, with both teams faced with doubleheaders and cramped schedules.

The Rays have Matt Moore, the top pitching prospect who has scouts buzzing almost Strasburg-style. And while manager Joe Maddon talks about possibly starting him sometime in these final 10 days of the season, he's not yet listed among the Rays' probables.

While the Red Sox go into a doubleheader Monday with Kyle Weiland and John Lackey as their scheduled starters, and while the Yankees hope that Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia aren't running out of gas (or, in Colon's case, stem cells), the Rays have the most solid rotation this side of Philadelphia.

Yes, part of it was drafting high all those years when they were bad (the same way the Yankees got Derek Jeter). David Price was the first player picked in 2007, and Jeff Niemann was the fourth player picked three years earlier.

But the Rays took Wade Davis in the third round, got rookie of the year candidate Jeremy Hellickson in the fourth round and found Moore, the latest phenom, in the eighth round.

Maybe they just make better decisions, or do a better job developing pitchers.

They do it so well that they could afford to trade Matt Garza last winter, and could deal Niemann or Davis -- or even Shields -- this winter. Shields would be the toughest to let go (far tougher than Garza), but he would also bring by far the most back to a team that needs offense and has little money to pay for it.

First, though, the great rotation has brought the Rays back into the wild-card race, and gives them a chance of winning it.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. When the Red Sox were rained out on May 17 against the Orioles and rescheduled it as part of a doubleheader this week, they probably figured it would be simply an annoyance as they prepared for the playoffs. Instead, it's a major headache for a Red Sox team struggling desperately to hold onto a wild-card ticket to the playoffs. And this doubleheader, Orioles at Red Sox, Monday afternoon (1:05 ET) and night (7:10 ET) at Fenway Park, doesn't help. The worst part: The Red Sox are stuck starting rookie Kyle Weiland, who has yet to win and has made it past the fourth inning in just one of his four big-league starts. In the other game, they'll go with John Lackey, has the worst ERA of any regular big-league starter.

2. The Giants have won eight in a row, to put off elimination and put a little heat on the first-place Diamondbacks. The Giants are still five games out, but they go to Phoenix this weekend for three games with the D-Backs, so the race isn't over yet. But the Giants, who can't afford to lose, face Clayton Kershaw in Giants at Dodgers, Tuesday night (10:10 ET) at Dodger Stadium. In five starts against the Giants this year, Kershaw is 4-0 with a 1.04 ERA. He'll be going for his 20th win, so he'll be even more motivated. But his opponent, Tim Lincecum, will be pitching to keep the Giants' season alive.

3. While the Red Sox go with Weiland and Lackey in their doubleheader, the Rays will start Shields and Hellickson in Rays at Yankees, Wednesday afternoon (1:05) and night (7:05) at Yankee Stadium. Shields leads the majors with 11 complete games, which makes him perfect for a doubleheader. Wednesday should be interesting for the Yankees, too, if not nearly as crucial. Ace CC Sabathia, who is just 3-3 with a 4.56 ERA in his last eight starts, goes against Shields, while inconsistent Phil Hughes faces Hellickson.

Posted on: September 17, 2011 8:58 pm
 

Gutsy Maddon trusts a gutsy kid, and Rays win

BOSTON -- Season on the line, and Joe Maddon trusted a kid he'd never seen pitch before Wednesday.

Season on the line, and Joe Maddon trusted 22-year-old Matt Moore so much that he handed him a two-run lead at Fenway Park, and didn't even bother warming anyone up behind him. He trusted him so much that he had Moore pitch the sixth inning, and the seventh, and then sent him out there again for the eighth, with a one-run lead.

You've got to love Joe Maddon, don't you?

The Rays manager isn't scared, and that's exactly why he's perfect for this team. The low-budget Rays have no choice but to take chances, and what manager in baseball is more willing to take chances?

He turned Saturday's 4-3 Rays win over the Red Sox into fascinating theater, and at the same time ensured that this long-shot American League wild-card race will go on for at least another day. The Rays now trail the Red Sox by three games with 11 games to play.

Moore, in his second big-league appearance, pitched maybe the three most important innings of the Rays season so far. He allowed one run, but he held onto the lead. He lived up to his advance billing, and also to his manager's amazing trust.

"That's hands-down the biggest game he's ever pitched," said an admiring David Price, who should know. "It's not easy to pitch in this park. This is an environment he's never felt before."

The Rays called Moore up from the minor leagues this week, openly hoping he could do for them what Price did in September and October 2008. They knew he had a 98 mph fastball, they believed he has the poise and makeup to handle it, and besides, they needed some help.

"He's the joker," Maddon said. "He's the wild card. Hopefully, he is the wild card."

Maddon is a little bit like Tiger manager Jim Leyland, in that he has no problem throwing a kid into a big situation right away. But Maddon might be even bolder.

He fully believed that Moore was his best option Saturday, because he thought Moore's stuff would allow him to make it through the Red Sox lineup. The only alternative, Maddon figured, was to "guess" on matchups, batter by batter.

"The plan is to win the game," Maddon said. "I thought he was going to be able to carry us for 2-3 innings. . . . I'm thinking he's got the best stuff, and I needed the best stuff to get through that."

This all says plenty about Moore, who spent much of this season in Double-A (where he struck out 131 batters in 102 1/3 innings).

"I think it was actually an easy decision," pitching coach Jim Hickey said. "Had we sent him out there for the ninth, I'd have had confidence in him."

Easy decision or not, it was a gutsy decision. It was a Maddon-type decision, a Rays-type decision.

As it turned out, it was the right decision.
And now the Rays have a chance.

"A sweep [of this weekend's four-game series] was a great thought," Maddon said. "But three out of four ain't bad. I think Meat Loaf intended the song to say that."

Category: MLB
Posted on: September 17, 2011 7:24 pm
Edited on: September 17, 2011 9:53 pm
 

Youkilis out, and a lefty shuts down the Sox

BOSTON -- Even with Kevin Youkilis, the Red Sox lineup is very left-handed.

And without him?

Well, in Boston's 4-3 loss to the Rays Saturday, Rays manager Joe Maddon used left-handed rookie Matt Moore for three innings of set-up relief. Moore, in just his second big-league appearance, entered the game with a two-run lead in the sixth, and handed a one-run lead to fill-in closer Joel Peralta in the ninth.

Moore gave up one run, but held the lead. He held the Red Sox lefties down, and he helped the Rays cut Boston's wild-card lead to just three games with 11 games remaining.

The Rays are still a real longshot; while they seemingly have an edge in Sunday's pitching matchup (David Price vs. Tim Wakefield), the schedule after that is decidedly against them.

But the Youkilis question is worth watching. It's not clear when or even if he'll play again this year, because of the combined effects of a hip problem and a sports hernia. Even if he plays, it's impossible to say what the Red Sox could expect from him.

"I'm not trying not to tell you," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said Saturday. "I just don't know. Where it goes from now, we really don't know."

Without Youkilis, Francona has moved left-handed hitting David Ortiz up to the cleanup spot, with left-handed hitting Josh Reddick moving up to hit behind him. Add in leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury and third-place hitter Adrian Gonzalez, and four of the first five hitters in the Boston lineup Saturday were left-handed.

And when Francona went to hit for Reddick in the eighth inning of a one-run game Saturday, the best right-handed hitter he could summon off the bench was Conor Jackson, who was just off an 0-for-27 drought.

Maddon admitted after the game that the Red Sox lefty-dominated lineup was a big reason he used Moore the way he did.

Before we make too much of this, it's worth noting that the Red Sox have been good against lefties this season, and that Ortiz (.342), Gonzalez (.315) and Ellsbury (.287) have all hit lefties well. Average-stuff lefties don't bother them much.

It's also worth noting that the Red Sox haven't hit well against Rays pitching -- right- and left-handed -- and that Youkilis, at .184 in 11 games, is one of the culprits.

Moore, who was clocked at 95-98 mph on the radar gun Saturday, is one of baseball's top pitching prospects, maybe the best one out there.

Still, it's interesting that Maddon would use him for three innings in such a tight -- and important -- game. And equally interesting that the left-handed Red Sox weren't able to do much with him.

Category: MLB
Posted on: July 10, 2011 10:31 pm
Edited on: July 10, 2011 11:13 pm
 

Future stars show off desert heat

PHOENIX -- What stood out to scouts watching Sunday's All-Star Futures Game?

The heat.

Not the triple-digit temperatures outside Chase Field but the near-triple-digit radar-gun readings on display inside. More and more, baseball is becoming a game of power pitching, and Sunday offered proof that more hard throwers are on the way.

Pitcher after pitcher lit up the gun at 95 mph-plus.

Scouts said that Phillies prospect Jarred Cosart and Rays prospect Matt Moore, who both topped out at 98 mph, clocked in with the fastest fastballs Sunday.

No one is really sure why there are more hard throwers in baseball now, but everyone seems convinced that there are. One theory: kids work with private pitching coaches at younger and younger ages, developing stronger arms and possibly better mechanics.

But all the velocity doesn't necessarily mean pitching is getting better.

"They throw hard, but they don't pitch," one scout complained. "We're developing all closers and set-up guys."

 
 
 
 
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