Rays’ top prospect Matt Moore and star pitcher David Price have a lot in common. Both Price and Moore are fireballing left-handed starters, who were considered the top left-handed pitching prospect coming into the majors. Both share a similar style of pitching, as well as some career experiences that are alike. It’s pretty clear how much these to young pitchers resemble each other. However, there’s one question that is debatable and makes a much more interesting discussion. Which of these phenom talents will be more successful in the big leagues? Since Price has been a member of the Rays since 2008 and Moore has just pitched 19.1 innings in the MLB, it’s hard to answer the question without thoroughly thinking through it. Price has already established himself as a bona fide ace in majors, while Moore has proven that he has every bit of potential needed to be.
Looking at some stats, Minor League and Major League, should help explain why Matt Moore will be better than David Price. When comparing Price’s minor league numbers to Moore’s, Moore absolutely dominates. When Price and Moore were at the age of 22, they both spent a minor league season playing in both Double-A and Triple-A. So it seems pretty fair to compare the statistics of those two years. Moore posted a 1.92 ERA during his 2011 minor league season, while Price put up a 2.80 ERA during his 2008 minor league season (excluding his 34.2 innings pitched at Class A+). I decided not to mention their strikeout and win-loss record, because Moore pitched 45.8 innings more. Three more stats that are worth mentioning as part of their minor league numbers, are BB/9 (walks per nine innings ratio), SO/BB (strikeout-to-walk ratio), and SO/9 (strikeouts per nine innings ratio). Price posted a 2.6 BB/9 ratio, an 8.9 SO/9 ratio, and a 3.41 SO/BB ratio during his 2008 minor league season (including AAA, AA, and A+). Moore posted a 2.7 BB/9 ratio, a stunning 12.2 SO/9 ratio, and an impressive 4.57 SO/BB ratio. Once again, it seems as Moore has the statistical edge. These statistics may not seem to important at first glance, but they are vital when predicting the future success of a young pitcher.
Now let’s compare both Price’s and Moore’s numbers from their short rookie seasons, when they were both 22 years old. In 2008 (regular season and postseason combined), Price pitched 19.2 innings (one game started) posting a 2.08 while striking out 20 batters. In Moore’s 2011 MLB stint (regular season and postseason combined), Moore posted a 2.09 ERA with 23 strikeouts through 19.1 innings (two games started). As you can see, the stats are strikingly similar. After looking at both Price’s and Moore’s stats, it’s safe to conclude that Moore has the potential to be at least as successful as Price in the big leagues.
Pitch selection percentages and pitch F/X statistics are other key devices that can help predict big league success for a pitcher. According to TexasLeaguers.com’s Pitch FX Database, Price threw 73.6% fastballs (including cutters and two-seamers), 18.5% breaking balls, and 7.8% changeups during his big league career. During Moore’s brief MLB stint last season (including playoffs), he threw 73.1% fastballs, 19.5% breaking pitches, and 7.6% changeup. The balance of fastballs and off-speed pitches from the two southpaws are pretty similar, but further data from the pitch F/X database reveals that Moore’s individual pitches may be more quality than Price’s. Firstly, Moore’s fastball has a velocity 0.7 MPH faster than Price’s fastball. It may not seem significant, but that could be the difference between a solid hit and a strikeout in Major League Baseball. Moore’s slider (which is the primary breaking pitch for both pitchers) has a spin angle of 63 degrees more, as well as an impressive whiff rate (20.8%) that is 12.8% more than Price’s. Speaking of whiff rates, Moore’s changeup whiff percentage is also 12.8% better than Price’s.
To wrap up all this data in a nutshell; Matt Moore simply has better stuff. We already know that his fastball is top-notch, but he also has a plus changeup that is getting much better. The changeup, which is Moore’s second-most effective pitch (highest swing rate and whiff rate of all his pitches), complements his outstanding fastball and seems to do a great job keeping hitters off balance. If Moore continues to use his changeup well, he could establish an excellent secondary pitch, which will be crucial to his future big league success. Mastering secondary pitches is one component that could make Moore a better pitcher than Price. Price is able to keep hitters off balance with his various off-speed pitches, but he hasn’t truly established his go-to secondary pitch yet that he can really trust. With Moore, I see a great possibility he could create his changeup into a pitch like that.
At the end of the day, Matt Moore has done everything to prove he’s as ready for the big leagues as David Price was in his rookie year. Both Price and Moore will likely have successful careers if they stay healthy, but Moore clearly has the potential to be the best pitcher in baseball at some point in the future. There’s a reason why Matt Moore is the Rays’ best pitching prospect ever.