The Tampa Bay Rays have a history of developing solid pitching prospects. In the past we have seen the likes of Jeremy Hellickson, David Price, and Chris Archer all ranking among the league’s best prospects before eventually making a big league impact. Another one of these players was Matt Moore, who was able to find his name among the league’s top prospects after years of development in the minors. The Rays have a similar type of pitcher in Blake Snell, who could very well follow in the same career path as Moore.
Both Moore and Snell were high school draft picks; Moore being an 8th rounder in 2007 and Snell being a 1st rounder in 2011. Both were lauded for having great potential, but it was known that they needed a great deal of development if they were every to reach their lofty ceilings.
Both left-handers, Moore and Snell featured similar stuff at the same points in their career. Currently, Snell, in his fourth season with the Rays organization, throws a plus fastball that sits in the low-90’s with outstanding late life. At 6’4”, 180 pounds he could add to that in the future. His slider is a plus pitch as well, and his changeup has flashed plus, though it is currently an above-average pitch. At the same point in his career, Moore was throwing his fastball in the 91-93 MPH range with late life and projection for future added velocity. He threw a curveball instead of a slider like Snell, but it was a plus pitch, and his changeup, like Snell’s, was above-average.
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Also at similar points in their careers, Snell and Moore experienced control problems. In his third year with the Rays organization and his first season in full season ball, Moore walked 5.1 batters per nine innings. At the exact same point in his career, Snell posted an ugly 6.6 BB/9. However in his fourth season with the organization, Moore’s BB/9 improved to 3.8, and likewise Snell’s increased to 4.4 this year in his fourth minor league season. While Snell’s control problems have been slightly more pronounced than Moore’s, the comparison makes plenty of sense. At the exact same time in their development both pitchers were lauded for outstanding pure stuff, but control issues made you wonder if they could ever reach their potential.
While Moore’s career path hasn’t yet been fully determined, he managed to hone in some of his control issues to become a successful pitcher. He was rated the best prospect in all of baseball by both MLB.com and BaseballProspectus.com heading into the 2012 season. Though he’s missed almost all of this season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, Moore’s career has, for the most part, gone well. He’s posted a 3.53 ERA in parts of four seasons while striking out almost a batter per inning, and he was especially impressive in 2013, when he put up a 3.29 ERA.
Snell has a chance to follow a similar career path and turn into the Rays’ next top pitching prospect. His stuff is just as good as anyone in the Rays’ system, and now he needs to get better control of it. He started to do just that this year, lowering his BB/9 by 1.2, and we could see continued improvements as he continues climbing the ladder. If so, Blake Snell could be the next young pitcher that turns into a star for the Rays.