Last night I had a chance to see Matt Moore pitch live for the first time. Over the past few years I've had a chance to watch Hellickson, Price, Davis, Cobb, Torres, Niemann and more pitch for the Durham Bulls on their path to St. Pete. The anticipation of seeing David Price was probably the only thing that exceeded seeing Moore for me, however Moore did a better job of living up to the hype.
The first thing you notice about Moore is his body. Unlike the Rays current staff which ranges from small (Helly) to giant (Niemann), Moore's body is right in the middle with that barrel chested look of a power pitcher (think Josh Beckett or Roger Clemens, just not quite as tall). His delivery, while I've read scouts complain of mechanical issues, seemed effortless as he fired pitches home.
In the 1st, Moore pumped fastballs between 91-94, quickly establishing 94 as his average speed on his heater and showed a change-up (84mph) as his off speed pitch, striking out the 2nd batter with a swinging strike well ahead and above the pitch.
Moore went on to strike out 2 batters an inning for the first four innings continually pounding the zone with his fastball (mostly four-seamers, with what appeared to be a few two-seamers mixed in) and change-up before more frequently introducing his curve the second time through the lineup. His fastball hit 95 in the second and 96 in the third (by comparison, Adam Russell sat at 93 with one pitch at 94). From my recollection Moore didn't have a three ball count until the 4th inning and gave up one walk in the fourth. Over his five innings of work he gave up three singles (none particularly hard hit), struck out nine and walked one. He threw 61 strikes (~72%) on 85 pitches with the only noticeable command issue being occasionally missing up on his fastball. I would like to see the number of foul balls he had (which seemed to be high and the reason the pitch count was a little up there with so few batters reaching base). All and all a very fine outing for Mr. Moore who continually had the Charlotte hitters baffled.
That said the only two complaints I had regarding Moore were he does slow down his delivery when throwing his off speed pitches (Kevin also previously pointed out some pitch tipping issues) and I would have liked to see him bury some off speed pitches down out of the zone on two strike counts. His stuff allowed him to stay in the zone and still get good results, but also led to excessive foul balls.
Of the recent Bulls pitchers I've seen, only Jeremy Hellickson seemed as ready (maybe more) to immediately be successful in the bigs compared to Matt Moore. I know recent history suggests the Rays front office will want a year at Durham to develop, but I honestly can't see a reason for him to spend anymore than a few months (Super Two argument) in AAA next year before beginning his era in the bigs.
Be happy Rays fans, as things aren't going well in St. Pete, there's reason to be excited about another top pitching prospect on his way.