Prospect Moore hits 100 mph in Futures Game
Rays Infielders Beckham, Lee join flamethrower at Chase Field
PHOENIX -- David Price may have been the darling of the Ray's 2007 Draft class and the first to ascend to the Majors, but there is another left-handed starter from that '07 bunch who could well follow in Price's All-Star footsteps.
While Price was en route to Arizona to participate in All-Star Game festivities, Matt Moore took the mound at Chase Field and tossed a scoreless inning in the XM All-Stars Futures Game on Sunday. Moore retired all three hitters he faced, reaching 100 mph on the ballpark scoreboard during a four-pitch strikeout to begin his 11-pitch performance for the U.S. team in a 6-4 win over the World team.
An eighth-round pick in '07, the 22-year-old left-hander is as good a pitching prospect as the Rays have in their system. Taken out of high school, Moore wasn't nearly as polished a pitcher as Price right out of the Draft, but his development has been steady and impressive since.
Moore couldn't reach 90 mph on a radar gun until he was a senior in high school, which led to him pitching somewhat under the radar in New Mexico. He credits a growth spurt for the sudden increase in velocity, adding that he "used to be a short little fat kid," before shooting up to his current 6-foot-2 height.
Moore entered 2011 having led the Minors in strikeouts in each of the previous two seasons, and he currently ranks third with 125 in 96 2/3 innings this year. That fastball can now sit in the mid-90s, and Moore has added a plus changeup to his repertoire this season for Double-A Montgomery.
"I would throw [the changeup] before, but I would never really use it as a weapon," said Moore, who threw a no-hitter last month. "I never considered it a good pitch for me. I just threw it because you are supposed to have a changeup as a starter. I wish I would have figured it out sooner. Right now, I consider it probably my second pitch."
That's only increased Moore's stock, as has his improvements with his command. The walks are down, and Moore has posted a 2.17 ERA in 17 Double-A games this season.
"I went into this season with a better mindset than any other season," Moore said. "I just wanted to throw strikes until someone forces me to do otherwise. I'm not going to beat around the bush and nibble at the corners. I'm going to attack the zone and attack the hitters."
Moore insists he ignores the talk of a timetable, though that hasn't kept those on the outside from suggesting that Moore could be ready to join Price in that Tampa Bay rotation sometime in 2012.
"Right now, I'm just at the point where I'm going to keep my head down until someone taps me on the shoulder and says, 'Hey, you're ready,'" Moore said.
Joining Moore at Sunday's Futures Game were infielders Tim Beckham and Hak-Ju Lee. The Rays' long-term answer at short is likely to include one of those two players, who have taken contrasting paths in the Minors so far.
With a chance to be the Rays' key acquisition in the Matt Garza deal, Lee has done nothing but hit since being signed out of South Korea in March 2008. He's batting .330 in High Class A this season and is shining defensively.
Lee played five innings in Sunday's game, finishing 0-for-2 with a strikeout.
To those who have already anointed Lee as the shortstop of the future, Beckham is doing what he can to make sure he isn't forgotten. The top pick in the 2008 Draft, Beckham has not shot up the Rays' system as quickly as anticipated.
But following three less-than-stellar seasons, the 21-year-old infielder has shored up his defense and is beginning to find some consistent success at the plate. Though his stock has dropped since that '08 Draft, Beckham should not be counted out as a potential impact Major Leaguer yet.
"I know I come to the field every day, try to be the first one there," Beckham said. "I'm on a mission right now. I want to show that I can stay at short, and I think I have. I put together a pretty good season at shortstop, and my all around game has gotten better. I'm proud of that and I want to keep improving."
After striking out as a pinch-hitter in the fifth, Beckham doubled home the tying run for the U.S. team in the eighth. With two out, Beckham then scored the go-ahead run on a single by Yankees catching prospect Austin Romine.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.