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Bernie On The Scene: Mirror Image

Bernie Pleskoff

Bernie Pleskoff is a former professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners.

It took exactly 11 pitches for Matt Moore to retire the three batters he faced in July at this year's Futures Game. He threw the ball 100 miles an hour, and was in total control of the inning he pitched. Frankly, he had no equal in the game. His stuff was electric and his command was superb. His future is unquestioned. I couldn't believe the curveball he threw to Mariners prospect Alex Liddi that made Liddi's legs melt like a candy sitting in pocket in the Arizona heat. It was totally, totally unfair. Moore comes right at hitters. He is appropriately aggressive on the mound. He knows how to pitch and not just throw the ball.

The baseball edition of Matt Moore is a 6-foot-2, 205-pound flame-throwing left-handed pitcher in the Rays organization. He just turned 22 in June and is currently he is pitching at Triple-A Durham. There are many who feel Moore will find his was to Tampa before the season concludes. I won't go that far, but he certainly has the ability to pitch at the major league level right now. However, the Rays are not as quick as some other clubs to start the big league careers of their prospects. That was the case with David Price and Jeremy Helickson, just as it was Desmond Jennings and will probably be the case with Moore as well.

There are some real similarities between Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg and Moore. To begin, both throw the fastball with extremely high velocity. Both were relatively hefty as young men and both grew into their bodies. They slimmed down, became more physically fit and lost the baby fat. They are both considered to be top of the organization, top of the rotation pitchers. Strasburg changed his life and his future by attending college. Moore chose to turn professional when he was drafted out of high school in 2007.

Moore was born in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, moved along the way to Okinawa, Japan while his father was stationed there in the military and he graduated from Moriarity High School in Edgewood, New Mexico. That's the same high school attended by Padres outfielder/first baseman Kyle Blanks. The Moore family moved to New Mexico when Matt's brother Bobby, himself a pitcher, began high school. Bobby has had a tremendous influence on his younger brother's life.

After his senior year at Moriarity, Moore was selected as the New Mexico Gatorade Player of the Year. He was a .300 hitter for the Pintos, as they became the runner up for the state baseball championship.

After his graduation from Moriarity, Moore faced a difficult decision. He could attend junior college and help a very good team go for a title, he could join his brother on the baseball roster at University of New Mexico or he could make himself available to be drafted by a major league club in the 2007 first-year player draft. He was hoping that perhaps his favorite team, the Atlanta Braves, would draft him. With a commitment to University of New Mexico in hand (based upon his 3.4 high school grade point average and his outstanding baseball ability) Moore signed a contract with Tampa Bay as the 245th player selected. It isn't often an eighth-round pick skyrockets through an organization as quickly and with as much success as Moore has found.
The Moore family was happy with the difficult decision, and the rest is history.

Bobby Moore was also a left-handed pitcher. While he had some playable tools, it was always Matt that showed the ability and the velocity to claim a role in a big league rotation. But it was Bobby Moore who tutored his younger brother and taught him the grip for his changeup, a solid third pitch in his arsenal. Moore throws that devastating fastball at the mid-90s to a top of 100 mph as well as the incredible curveball and a very solid changeup. He has the ability to bust the curve in on the hitter's hands as well as most pitchers with much more experience. In reality, Moore gets stronger as the game progresses. He reminds me a great deal of a left-handed version of Justin Verlander with the repertoire, the high velocity and the ability to take control of a game. Verlander is three inches taller and 25 pounds heavier, but the stuff is about the same. That's saying something. Like Verlander, Moore can lose command quickly and get it back quickly. That happens when a pitcher loses rhythm and gets out of sync a bit. If there is one caution about Moore, it might be that he still has to learn to repeat his delivery. But from what I've seen live and on video, he is lethal against both right-handed and left-handed hitters.

Another comparison for Moore is Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw. They both throw the same type pitches, but I think Moore's command will be better more quickly than was Kershaw's in his first couple major league seasons. You may remember that Kershaw had some trouble with walks in his early seasons in Los Angeles. I don't see that happening to Moore. I do think that Kershaw is among the very best pitchers in baseball and that eventually, Moore will be the same type of savvy top of the rotation team ace. Just not in his first full year.

Now for the best part for fantasy owners about Moore. He led the minor leagues in strikeouts both in 2009 and 2010. He is on his way to another season of missing bats and sending hapless, helpless players back to the bench with their bat in their hand. In June this season he threw a no-hitter while pitching for Double-A Montgomery.

Since being promoted to Triple-A Durham, Moore has started five games. He's 3-0 and he's given up 16 hits in 30.2 innings pitched. Here's the meat of the issue. Over his time between the two levels this season, Moore has walked 35 and struck out 180. His WHIP is 0.750. Want that on your fantasy team? I do. I'm sure there will be those who feel Moore should be learning to throw a two-seam fastball that sinks so hitters will pound the ball in the ground. He really doesn't need that pitch. His four-seamer has enough late movement to produce outs. More often than not, swings and misses occur. His four-seamer rises as well as darts. Unlike some pitchers with high velocity, I have not seen Moore's fastball flatten out. It moves. Everything he throws moves.

Scouts continue to debate the relative merits of the Braves' Julio Teheran or Moore as the brightest future star in the prospect galaxy. For me, it's Moore first and then the rest of the pack. The pack is pretty solid with the Rockies' Drew Pomeranz, the Astros' Jarred Cosart, the Braves' Julio Teheran, the Cards' Shelby Miller, the Tigers' Jacob Turner and on and on. You get my point. There are so many very solid, very effective pitchers on the horizon, but Moore stands above the rest. When his mechanics are sound, his delivery is smooth and totally effortless. He gets the ball and throws the ball; no shenanigans on the mound and no prancing around. As indicated above, if he loses his concentration, he regains it quickly. His pitch sequencing is advanced for a pitcher with his age and experience as he knows what pitch to throw at each count. His "slurve" is a devastating pitch that he can use on any count. It is really more a combination slider and curve than a traditional curveball.

It is likely Moore will pitch in the Rays' rotation next season. When he does, he will join David Price, James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson, Jeff Niemann and perhaps eventually even Alex Cobb (if he isn't still hurt) in forming a star studded starting rotation. The presence of Moore will allow the Rays to continue to shop Wade Davis or even one of the aforementioned starters for help in other areas of the club. The depth of that staff should give pause to clubs like the Yankees and Red Sox. If baseball begins and ends with pitching, the Rays should be fine.

Moore is a legitimate, talented left-handed starting pitcher with a loose power arm and the temperament to become a star. Quickly. He is advanced for his age, has two plus,-plus pitches and a third in the making. Once the changeup is fully developed, he might even toy with adding a two-seam fastball. Buy with confidence and enjoy what he will bring. Strikeouts, wins, a low ERA, a low WHIP and eventually maybe a Cy Young. Maybe. Be patient.

Follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff and on in the Opinions section. As always, your comments and questions are welcomed.