(This article was recently updated based on current ADP trends)
Darvish-mania aside, no rookie pitcher entered 2012 with more hype than Matt Moore. The Rays lefty had laid waste to minor league competition since entering the Rays’ system in 2007, then came into the majors at the end of 2011 and hung 11 K’s on the Yankees over 5 IP before spinning seven shutout innings of two-hit ball against Texas in the playoffs. So no, you weren’t insane if you drafted this guy as your third or even second SP and simply planned on setting and forgetting him from April through September.
Alas, things didn’t exactly go that way for Moore and his fantasy owners. Although durable enough to make 31 starts, the rookie often posted ugly, pitch-count heavy lines; he failed to complete six innings on thirteen occasions, and he struggled with his control, posting a 4.1 BB/9. Additionally, after stringing together a solid June and July followed by a sensational August, Moore delivered a gruesome 1-3, 5.48 September at the exact time when hesitant fantasy owners finally felt as though they were about to get paid off on their investment.
But if you can push aside the lofty preseason expectations, it certainly wasn’t all that bad for Moore. He showed premium strikeout stuff with 175 K’s in 177.1 IP and posted a .235 opponents’ BA; he also spent the season flashing his nasty repertoire, averaging 94 MPH on his fastballs, 82 MPH on his slider, and 85 MPH on his changeup– a rare type of left-handed arsenal that contributed to an 11.8% swinging-strike percentage (good for sixth-best in MLB).
RotoBaller’s 2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleeper Score: 8.5
(scores are from 1 – 10, with 10 being the biggest sleeper potential based on current ADPs)
RotoBaller’s 2013 Fantasy Baseball Projection: 209 IP, 201 Ks, 3.42 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 14-16 W
RotoBaller’s Target Draft Rounds: Rounds 8-9
A classical definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result, but you can throw that out the window in fantasy baseball, especially with a talent as special as Matt Moore. Even with a horrid September that could very well have been fatigue-related, Moore still had a second-half ERA of 3.01 to go along with a .220 opponents’ BA and 9.2 K/9. He also shaved nearly a full walk off his first-half BB/9 of 4.5, a very positive sign considering that Moore had wrestled with similar control issues in A-Ball before making adjustments and continuing his ascent to the majors. Such is his upside that he remains entrenched around the top-20 or so SP in most pre-draft rankings, so don’t be lulled to sleep on draft day by his relatively unspectacular debut season; this is a player who could very well post over 200 K’s along with 15 W and an ERA under 3.50, so target him in the first 8-10 rounds of your draft. Besides, there’s a guy out in LA, a lefty, who had a lot of hype but also struggled with control when he first entered the majors… that seems to have worked out pretty well, hasn’t it? Yes, Moore’s ceiling remains that high.