The 2012 season was a bumpy roller coaster ride for 23-year-old Matt Moore. After a sensational performance in 2011 as a late season call-up, many expected Moore to have an outstanding rookie year. It hasn't been a bad year for Moore at all, but it hasn't been such a great one either.
The phenom southpaw went 11-11 with a 3.81 ERA, 8.88 K/9, .235 opponent's average and a 3.93 FIP in the back end of baseball's best rotation. Those numbers are obviously still very good for a 23-year-old rookie in his first season pitching over 150 innings.
The future for Moore is extremely bright, and I expect him to become a superstar as early as next season. Here are my two reasons why.
His Command Will Improve
There were probably a few factors to Matt Moore's on-and-off struggles during the season, but the his main issue throughout the year was clearly his fastball command. Spotty command among young talented flamethrowers is obviously very common and usually a weakness for most rookies alike.
As I like to do for most of my articles about Matt Moore, let's compare him with teammate David Price. With all of the amazing similarities among the two (left-handers, rookie seasons, age during same stages in career, style of pitching, prospect hype, etc.), nobody serves as a better comparison for Moore than Price does.
Looking at how Price's command was in his rookie year gives us reasonable hope that Moore can develop into a superstar like Price did and probably as quickly as he did.
This year Moore walked 10.7% of batters faced and threw 37% balls, while Price—in his [first full] rookie season—walked 9.7% of batters faced and also threw 37% balls; all at about the same age. Price went 10-7 with a 4.42 ERA through 128.1 innings pitched that year.
In his sophomore year (2010), Price's command improved as both his ball percentage and walk percentage decreased, and down with it went his ERA. He enjoyed an outstanding season, winning 19 games and finishing runner-up for the AL Cy Young Award.
Considering how similar Moore and Price are and the fact that they play in the same organization with the same surroundings, I really expect Moore to have an ace-like season in 2013 if his command can improve like Price's did.
He Will Continue to Mature as a Pitcher
What's the difference between a 23-year-old rookie pitcher and a 24-year-old pitcher in his second season? For David Price that difference was significant, and hopefully Moore can make the same adjustments he did in order to breakout into the Cy Young caliber player he's capable of being.
With good coaching and hard work Price came into his second season as a much more polished pitcher, with better fastball velocity and a different lineup of pitches. The speed on his fastball increased drastically, as much as over 2 MPH on his four-seamers.
He also changed his repertoire and heavily incorporated two new pitches—the two-seam fastball and the curveball, which were hardly used at all in his rookie year. Price expanded his arsenal from a simple three-pitch one to a veteran-like five-pitch one, essentially transforming him from a 'thrower' to a 'pitcher'.
These kind of adjustments will likely be seen from Moore when he returns to the field this spring. His average fastball velocity of [a bit over] 94 MPH will likely increase as he adds mass, and his arsenal—which currently consists of four pitches (four-seam, two-seam, changeup, slider)—will probably expand as well along with adjustments in his pitch selection.