Back when the they were the Devil Rays, and stuck in a seemingly unending cycle of mediocrity, the Rays would grasp at anything that would seemingly improve their squad. The biggest issues that the Rays franchise had were in their starting rotation, which ranked near the bottom of the league virtually every season since they first came into the league until their 2008 American League Championship team. In fact, it took the Rays until the 2006 season to have a team whose starting rotation posted an ERA under 5.00, when they managed slipped under the bar with a 4.96 ERA.
In the Rays quest to find starters, they would often rush pitchers through their minor leagues, typically to disastrous results. Dewon Brazelton, Joe Kennedy, Ryan Rupe, Jason Standridge and others were brought up to the majors despite not being ready, and flamed out spectacularly. When the team was sold in 2005, and the present front office was brought in, the idea of rushing prospects went out along with the prior regime. Instead, the Rays began to promote the idea of patience in the minors, of making certain that their prospects are successful before bringing them up, and doing their best to attempt to ensure that success at the major league level.
Perhaps the value of that strategy is most evident in the performance of Matt Moore. A raw pitcher out of high school, the Rays started him in at the bottom, and made sure he was ready before bringing him up to the majors. In fact, Moore himself credits that approach to being a big part of his success.
“What the Rays do with high school pitchers is great,” Moore said. “They never put me into a situation where I wasn’t just going to take off. I got drafted when I was 17. I knew how to throw the ball in the middle of the plate, I knew how to make my curveball snap off, but I didn’t know how to locate anything, and I didn’t have a changeup.
“With me, it was, ‘Start from the bottom with this guy. We’re going to send him in to see [pitching coach] Marty DeMerritt to teach him something about how to work and be in this game and be professional.’ The progression for me was right on. I don’t think there was a time when I needed to be somewhere and I wasn’t.”
Despite his recent struggles, Moore is still off to a fantastic start this season. Presently 6-0 with a 2.14 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 42 innings, Moore has been one of the main reasons that they Rays were able to stay around the .500 mark during their rough start to begin the season. In fact, Moore may be one of the front runners for the Cy Young Award at this point, possibly giving the Rays back-to-back winners of the award.
The patient approach is something that the Rays have been able to utilize with great success thus far, and not just with Moore. They had used that same approach with David Price and Jeremy Hellickson before Moore, with excellent results. The Rays have utilized that approach with Chris Archer, and are doing the same with Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi. With prospects such as Taylor Guerrieri and Tyler Goeddel, that approach is not likely to change.
Matt Moore is just the latest player to make a major impact upon the roster that the Rays have developed. With the plan they have in place, and their sense of the right time to promote players through the system, he will likely be joined by others who traveled the same path.