PHOENIX — To understand just how hard the pitchers were throwing in Sunday’s All-Star Futures Game, consider the radar-gun readings on the final pitch of each of Bryce Harper’s four at-bats:
96, 96, 95, 98.
Harper, the Nationals’ ballyhooed prospect who just reached Double A, went 0-for-4. Yet, amid the torrent of velocity, the scouts in attendance were virtually unanimous in praising one pitcher above all the others:
Rays left-hander Matt Moore, who pitches at Double-A Montgomery.
“He was the best guy in the game, hands down,” one scout said. “How many left-handers in the majors right now are better than him?”
Moore, 22, pitched a scoreless inning for the US team, throwing just 11 pitches – nine of them for strikes. His fastball ranged from 94 to 98 mph, and one scout rated his 86-mph slider as “plus-plus” – well above average.
The low-revenue Rays, who constantly turn over their roster when their players grow expensive, will be set with Moore, fellow left-hander David Price and righty Jeremy Hellickson in their rotation through at least 2015.
One scout said that Moore showed every quality a starting pitcher needs to succeed – stuff, strike-throwing ability, deception in his delivery. Another described him as “free, easy, athletic.”
Moore, the Rays’ eighth-round pick in 2007, said he loved pitching before a big crowd at Chase Field, calling it a “great experience.”
“It was by far the most intense situation I’ve ever been in,” he said.
He figures to be in even more intense situations soon.
— Ken Rosenthal