Pitching prospects like the Rays' Matt Moore do not come around very often, and the young left-hander deserves credit for harnessing his natural ability and developing into a Major Leaguer.
But Moore, ranked no. 1 on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list, had help. And if Tampa Bay expects to keep graduating players from the Minor Leagues to the big leagues, the club will have to continue working as a team from the top to the bottom of the organization.
"From ownership to [executive vice president of baseball operations] Andrew Friedman to [manager] Joe Maddon to player scouting and international operations, we are one," Rays farm director Mitch Lukevics said. "It's taken some time to put it all together, but things are happening for the Rays as an organization. It's a collective team effort."
Moore is a product of this team effort.
"Don't forget that he pitched two years in the Appalachian League," Lukevics said. "We thought in our organization that it was in his best interest at that point in his journey, and you can see how he has matured mentally and physically as a young man. He's learned lessons from a lot of good coaches that put him in those situations."
Moore went 8-3 with a 2.20 ERA in 18 starts for Double-A Montgomery in 2011 and 4-0 with a 1.37 ERA in nine starts at Triple-A Durham. He combined to strike out 210 batters in the Minor Leagues.
Moore's success followed him to the big leagues, and he made an immediate impact with the Rays upon his promotion. He entered a must-win game at Fenway Park on Sept. 17 in his second big league outing and allowing one run on two hits and two walks over three innings. He shined during the American League Division Series against the Rangers, throwing seven shutout innings in a Game 1 win and then throwing three strong innings in Game 4.
"Matt Moore's work ethic is outstanding," Lukevics said. "He came with wonderful intangibles and good aptitude. He came with good raw skills and refined them because of a combination of those intangibles and a lot of coaches that really care about him."
Other Tampa Bay prospects ranked on MLB.com's list of Top 100 Prospects are Hak-Ju Lee (46), right-hander Chris Archer (74), shortstop Tim Beckham (92), outfielder Mike Mahtook (96) and right-hander Taylor Guerrieri (99).
Top 20 Prospects
The Rays have one of the greatest problems an organization can have: finding innings and at-bats for all of the prospects it keeps pumping into its Minor League system.
Overall, Tampa Bay had a record 12 of the first 89 selections and 10 of the first 60, including three first-round picks, seven compensation picks and two second-round selections, in last year's First-Year Player Draft. Add those players to the players already in the system and you can understand why the Rays' system is stacked.
Truth be told, finding playing time for all those players is not really a problem at all.
"You can never have enough players," Lukevics said. "Things come up in this game. You think a player will be good and he doesn't [produce], and unfortunately, a player becomes injured. We all know in baseball that you never have enough, because so many things out of our control that can come up, so we'll find at-bats and innings. That's what we do."
With Archer and Alex Torres pitching at Triple-A and a host of young arms like Enny Romero, Blake Snell, Parker Markel, Felipe Rivero, Jeff Ames and Guerrieri (the club's top pick in last year's First-Year Player Draft) developing at the lower levels, the club feels good about the future.
rays' top prospects
Lee continues to make strides, and the club has high hopes for Mahtook and Jake Hager, both selected on the first day of last year's Draft.
"We are a small-market club, and it has been well documented that we don't have revenue streams like some clubs do, so our ability to develop our own players is paramount," Lukevics said.
Under the Radar
Latin pitching prospects Roberto Gomez and Braulio Lara have impressed the organization with their progress and are worth keeping an eye on. Gomez, a right-hander, shined in the Gulf Coast League with a 2.48 ERA in 54 1/3 innings. The left-handed Lara struck out 111 batters in 120 1/3 innings for Class A Bowling Green.
Hitter of the Year
It appears that Mahtook's hitting prowess in college has followed him to the pro level. He made his pro debut in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .338 with three home runs and 14 RBIs in 18 games for Surprise.
Pitcher of the Year
Archer had a tough first half at Double-A Montgomery, but he bounced back in the second half and eventually earned a promotion to Triple-A. His goal last season was to be called up to the big leagues in September, and a fine season this year could make his wish come true.