Rankings Counterpoint: Sell High on Matt Moore While You Still Can!
Right now you’re thinking “Matt Moore had an elite fantasy season in 2013. He made the All Star team and put up a fantastic 17-4 record with a stellar 3.29 ERA and had 143 strikeouts in 150 innings. That’s awesome! Why the Heck should I sell high on him?” Read on to find out…
When Matt Moore was in the minor leagues he was talked about in the same breath as Mike Trout and Bryce Harper as a once in a generation uber-prospect. In fact Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, Fangraphs, MLB.com and John Sickels all ranked Matt Moore ahead of Mike Trout on their Top 100 Prospects Lists in 2012! It was totally justified given Moore’s video game-like strikeout totals and ERAs in the minors. His 2nd major league start came when he pitched 7 shutout innings against the Rangers in the playoffs. Talk about bursting onto the scene in style!
He was a 22 year old rookie in 2012 and put up an encouraging 3.81 ERA, then he went all gangbusters in 2013 with that aforementioned 17-4 record and lights out 3.29 ERA. What’s not to like about that? Won’t he continue to get even more elite since he is still so young?
Well, here’s the downside to the story. Moore has been losing velocity rapidly:
2011 average fastball 95.3 MPH
2012 average fastball 94.3 MPH
2013 average fastball 92.2 MPH
That is a big red flag. Moore has relied heavily on his unhittable fastball throughout his career, and now that fastball is no longer something special. The swing and miss rate on Moore’s fastball has been dropping just as fast as his velocity.
Moore missed the entire month of August last year with a sore elbow. That combined with his steep drop in velocity is a big warning sign that a major injury could be right around the corner.
Here are some of Moore’s peripheral stats:
3.81 2012 ERA
3.93 2012 FIP
4.35 2012 xFIP
4.08 2012 SIERA
3.29 2013 ERA
3.95 2013 FIP
4.32 2013 xFIP
4.31 2013 SIERA
Which of those numbers is out of whack with the rest? That 3.29 ERA last year is an outlier that is unlikely to happen again. Moving forward we can expect Moore’s ERA to fall in the 3.90-4.30 range, which might come as a rude shock for his fantasy owners. That 3.29 ERA can be traced to some luck in his .259 BABIP and his high 78.6% strand rate. Don’t expect that good fortune to continue. The Rays have a good defense (largely due to extreme shifting) and they play in a ballpark that favors pitchers so Moore can be expected to slightly outperform his peripherals, but not by that much.
Moore’s career WHIP of 1.32 is also a problem. That is plenty high enough to hurt your team in that category. A 1.20 WHIP is average for a fantasy team while 1.12 is usually required to win the WHIP category in a 12-team fantasy league. A high WHIP is another good indicator that his ERA will be above 4.00 in future seasons.
The biggest dent in Moore’s armor is his terrible walk rate, which is the 2nd highest in the majors behind only Edinson Volquez over the last two seasons. His 11.8% walk rate and 4.27 BB/9 mean his WHIP is always going to be high and it drags his ERA like an anchor. Even Moore’s good but not stellar 8.9 K/9 rate is barely enough to keep his K:BB ratio above 2:1, which is not good at all.
Combine all these factors together and we must conclude that Matt Moore is unlikely to ever match his 2013 season. He is never going to match that 17-4 record for certain, and he is very unlikely to match that 3.29 ERA again either. Unless Moore can somehow regain his lost velocity and drastically reduce his horrendous walk rate and hold off that impending elbow injury then his trade value in fantasy leagues is going to drop steeply in the very near future.
What You Should Do About It…
The good news is his trade value is still very high right now. If you have Matt Moore on your team the time to trade him is today. Trade him before your league mates catch on to his problems. Moore is still rated highly according to most ranking systems. In dynasty leagues he is rated even more highly because of his youth and prospect pedigree.
Put that sparkling 17-4 record and 3.29 ERA on the trade market in your league and see what you can get. I bet there are a few team owners in your league who will pay a pretty price to get that young stud ace pitcher you have been beating them with.
If you make a deal come back here and post your haul in the comments!