If you were looking up Matt Moore's game logs, no, that isn't a misprint.
In Moore's last start before yesterday, the Rays lefty threw seven shutout innings, walked one and struck out 10 for high Class A Charlotte. So what did Moore do yesterday? Seven innings, no runs, one walk, 10 strikeouts.
The game was Moore's third consecutive start with double-digit strikeouts and the fifth time in his last seven outings that he's struck out at least 10 batters. With 154 strikeouts in 111 innings, Moore has punched out one third of the hitters he's faced all year, but he's been at his best recently, fanning a remarkable 39 percent in his last seven starts.
Moore's fastball parks in the low-90s, but it's his knockout low-80s curveball that gives hitters fits. It's one of the best breaking balls in the minors, a plus or even a plus-plus pitch according to some scouts. One scout who saw Moore this year called him a future frontline starter in the big leagues with three plus pitches once his changeup becomes more consistent.
With Jeremy Hellickson, the Rays already have the best pitching prospect in baseball sitting in Triple-A because their big league rotation is stacked with quality young pitching. With Moore, the Rays have another one of the game's premier pitching prospects who could potentially become the best pitching prospect in baseball himself if he can refine his control.
Joe Kelly, rhp, Cardinals (low Class A Quad Cities)
The Cardinals haven't let Kelly throw many innings this year, limiting him to 86 2/3 frames thus far for Quad Cities after drafting the UC Riverside closer a year ago in the third round. Easing him into a starting role, Kelly has shown scouts one of the better arms in the minors. His fastball is outstanding, not just because of its velocity (it sits in the low- to mid-90s and has peaked at 99 mph this year) but because of the heavy sink he puts on the ball. Kelly does have quality secondary stuff though, which he showed yesterday when he allowed one run (unearned), walked one and struck out a career high 11 batters in 6 2/3 innings.
Kyle Gibson, rhp, Twins (Double-A New Britain)
Gibson was the talk of the high Class A Florida State League and perhaps all of the minors early in the year. The Twins' 2009 first-round pick breezed through the FSL with one of the heaviest sinkers in the minors, but the 22-year-old had a few rough outings in June that inflated his ERA. His stuff is just as good as it was to start the year though, which Gibson showed yesterday while striking out seven in six shutout innings without issuing a walk.
Ramon Flores, of, Yankees (Rookie-level Gulf Coast League)
We talked about Flores last week when breaking down some of the top international prospects to watch in Rookie ball. Since then, he's had a hit in every game he's played, including yesterday when the 18-year-old from Venezuela went 4-for-5 with a double, a triple and a stolen base. Catcher Gary Sanchez might be the best prospect on this team, but Flores is up there too among the best in the GCL, an advanced hitter with good plate discipline for his age.
Jerry Sands, 1b/of, Dodgers (Double-A Chattanooga)
When Sands spent the season's first three months tearing up the low Class A Midwest League, it was easy to be skeptical of a 22-year-old beating up on younger competition. While 123 plate appearances is a small sample size, what Sands is doing after skipping a level to go to Double-A is impressive. Sands went 3-for-4 with two home runs, giving him 11 in 29 Double-A games and 29 in 98 games on the year. Sands has made enough of an impression on some scouts to project him as a major league regular with plus power and solid defense at either first base or a corner outfield position.
Yonder Alonso, 1b, Reds (Triple-A Louisville)
It's been a tough year for Alonso, who was set back last year by a broken hamate bone. More concerning than the three home runs Alonso hit in his first 47 games is that his usually sterling plate discipline seemed to have eroded as well. Since July got started, however, Alonso has been on a tear, including yesterday when he went 2-for-4 and hit his fifth home run of the month, bringing his July numbers to .371/.429/.629 in 23 games. But perhaps the most unexpected (and mostly meaningless) stat for Alonso? He's a clean 7-for-7 stealing bases this year, not bad for a well-below-average runner.
Matt Davidson, 3b, Diamondbacks (low Class A South Bend)
Davidson's best tool is his excellent raw power, which the 2009 supplemental first-rounder has shown with a .201 isolated power mark, an impressive figure for a 19-year-old in the Midwest League. Davidson, who yesterday went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles, has quick hands and can hit the ball over the fence to any part of the park, but his defense hasn't been the cleanest. Davidson has split time between DH and third base with '09 first-rounder Bobby Borchering, and in just 43 games at third Davidson already has 14 errors. Borchering, by the way, hasn't been much better, committing 15 errors in 55 games.
Julio Teheran, rhp, Braves (Double-A Mississippi)
Double-A is a big jump, but most pitchers don't have to make that leap when they're 19 years old. Teheran got shelled in his Double-A debut yesterday, allowing five runs in 4 2/3 innings while walking six and striking out three. Considering that Teheran has some of the best stuff in the minors and had made just seven starts in full-season ball coming into the year, the amount of concern here is next to zero.
Chun Chen, c, Indians (high Class A Kinston)
The Indians have a handful of intriguing prospects in their system from the Pacific Rim, including the 21-year-old Chen. So far Chen has put up excellent numbers at the Class A level, hitting .312/.368/.518 in 58 games for low Class A Lake County and, after going 2-for-3 with two doubles and two walks yesterday, he's hit .278/.406/.481 in 16 games since his promotion to Kinston. Chen isn't the toolsiest player, as scouts aren't sure his limited bat speed will play against better competition, but for now his performance at least merits some attention.
Josh Bell, 3b, Orioles (Triple-A Norfolk)
Bell hasn't enjoyed the same success he had last year, but he's hit well lately with a nine-game hitting streak and a multi-hit game in six of those nine games. That streak includes yesterday's 3-for-5 showing in which he doubled and hit his 13th home run. Of course, that home run came against a righthanded batter, as the switch-hitting Bell has continued to show a remarkable platoon split, with 12 of his 13 home runs this year coming against righthanded pitching. Bell has the strength and bat speed to generate plus raw power, but his swing still has holes in it that some scouts think is getting exposed against better pitching.
• The Royals promoted lefthander John Lamb to Double-A Northwest Arkansas. It doesn't seem like there was much left for Lamb to show in the high Class A Carolina League, as he leaves the circuit with a 1.13 ERA in 74 2/3 innings and a nifty 90-to-15 K-to-BB ratio. The Royals' Double-A rotation now includes Lamb, Chris Dwyer, Danny Duffy (also promoted up from high Class A Wilmington) and Aaron Crow. The rehabbing Mike Montgomery is expected to join the team as well before long.
• The Red Sox placed Casey Kelly on the disabled list with a blister on his right middle finger. Kelly is just a 20-year-old in Double-A, but he had been struggling with a 4.85 ERA in 85 1/3 innings as the sharpness of his curveball and fastball command haven't been as crisp as in the past. He had been better lately, however, holding opponents to two runs or fewer in his last three starts, including an eight-strikeout game in his last outing.
• The Angels bumped righthander Garrett Richards up to high Class A Rancho Cucamonga. Richards, a supplemental first-round pick a year ago, leaves the low Class A Midwest League with a 3.41 ERA in 108 1/3 innings, 108 strikeouts and 34 walks. The Angels have played it conservatively with Richards after an enigmatic career at Oklahoma in which he showed excellent stuff but not-so-excellent results, so the biggest test for the 22-year-old might not come until he reaches Double-A.
• Good news and bad news for the Pirates. The good news is that Starling Marte is back and rehabbing from a left hand injury in the GCL, where he homered in his first at-bat on Monday in his first game back and went 2-for-4 with a double yesterday. Marte, 21, should be back with high Class A Bradenton soon. The bad news is that the season is over for Double-A Altoona center fielder Gorkys Hernandez, who will be out for three to four months with a fractured right ring finger, according to BA correspondent Dejan Kovacevic.
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