DURHAM, N.C.—In our Midseason Update, Baseball America ranked Rays lefthander Matt Moore and Braves righty Julio Teheran as the top two pitching prospects in the minors, with Moore ranking one spot higher. They took the mound Tuesday and Wednesday at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, and Moore showed just why he earned a slight edge over Teheran.
A day after the Colombian righty threw six solid innings to earn a victory for Triple-A Gwinnett, Moore dominated for Durham, tossing eight shutout innings while striking out 13 in a 4-0 victory. Moore's 13 strikeouts tied a Triple-A Bulls mark (the franchise was in Class A prior to 1998), previously set by Jason Hammel and Wade Davis.
Davis and Hammel are two of the many pitching prospects to come through Durham in the last 13 seasons, a group of current big leaguers that includes last year's Minor League Player of the Year, Jeremy Hellickson, as well as Davis and Hammel, David Price, Jeff Niemann, Mitch Talbot, Alex Cobb and James Shields, among others.
Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo said it was "fair to say" Moore, in terms of stuff and dominance, compares favorably with any of them, including Price, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft and a two-time all-star. And this was just Moore's second Triple-A start, coming against a solid lineup and while squaring off against another top prospect, Gwinnett's Mike Minor.
"It was fun to watch," Montoyo said. "The other guy was pretty good, so for (Moore) to do that, it was fun to watch. He was commanding all his pitches, which is pretty good for his age."
Minor pitched well, giving up four runs (two earned) on five hits while strikeout out seven and walking none in seven innings. Moore was simply better, pumping his fastball consistently in the 94-96 mph range, touching 97, and spotting it to both sides of the plate. Moore also commanded his changeup and curveball better than in his Durham debut last Friday, which catcher Nevin Ashley said was the reason the 22-year-old from New Mexico made it look so easy.
"Honestly, I feel like he has a chance to pitch like that every time I catch him," said Ashley, who also worked with Moore at Double-A Montgomery this season. "He throws hard so easy, that's really all I try to tell him is to slow down a little and not try too hard. When he tries too hard, he gets on the side of the ball and overthrows a little. That's the only time he seems to have any trouble.
"His curve and his changeup were really good tonight. He was throwing strikes with both of them, and he always has 94-95 in his pocket when he needs it."
Moore only allowed a handful of hard-hit balls. Stefan Gartrell and Mauro Gomez hit hard line drives to left field that were both caught by Leslie Anderson, and shortstop Tyler Pastornicky continued his strong play for Gwinnett with a pair of soft line-drive singles to right, improving his average to .441 in Triple-A. Moore issued two walks—one to Pastornicky in the first and one in the eighth. But he stayed in the game and still hit 94 mph regularly in the eighth, when his pitch count reached 103.
But as Montoyo said, it was "an easy 103. He never had an inning where he really had to battle. He cruised."
"I thought I was going back out for the ninth," Moore added. "I was a little tired but I had enough left in the tank."
With 115 innings so far this season, Moore is well on his way to surpassing his career high of 145 innings set last. After leading the minors in strikeouts the last two seasons, he ranks third in 2011 with 151 in those 115 innings, and he's decreased his walk rate from 3.8 per nine innings to 2.5. His overall stat line for the season includes a 9-3, 2.03 mark with just 74 hits allowed and 32 walks, with his worst stat being the nine home runs he's allowed.
Teheran, who improved to 11-1, 1.67 with his outing Tuesday, makes a strong case for being the minors' best pitching prospect. Yesterday, Moore demonstrated why his case is just a bit stronger.
AROUND THE MINORS
Billy Hamilton, ss, Reds: Hamilton went 2-for-4 for low Class A Dayton, including a line in the game log that included this gem: "Billy Hamilton singles on a ground ball to first baseman Connor Powers." Yeah, he's fast. Even more important, he's hit .330/.414/.402 with 14 walks and 14 strikeouts in 24 games this month. Whether he should be "untouchable" as some media reports have indicated is debatable, but you won't find a faster player in the minors.
Brad Peacock, rhp, Nationals: Peacock had a no-hitter going through seven innings for Triple-A Syracuse until Columbus first baseman Beau Mills (Indians) led off the eighth inning with a double, ending Peacock's night after 109 pitches. Peacock did walk four batters, but he held the Clippers scoreless and showed why he's put up some of the best numbers in the minors this year.
Joe Benson, of, Twins: Always loaded with tools, Benson is showing more signs of life with the bat this year. He went a combined 6-for-8 with a home run and a double yesterday in Double-A New Britain's doubleheader, bringing him to .288/.384/.487 through 72 games, plenty of offensive production for a 23-year-old center fielder.
Brett Lawrie, 3b, Blue Jays: Between the Colby Rasmus trade yesterday and the deals for Yunel Escobar and Lawrie, the Blue Jays have mastered the art of finding talented players who have fallen from the good graces of their current organization. Lawrie's only improved his stock since coming over from Milwaukee, hitting .358/.418/.683 for Triple-A Las Vegas. Those numbers include yesterday's showing in which he went 3-for-4 with a double and two home runs, giving him 18 homers in 62 games.
Cito Culver, ss, Yankees: Culver hit his first and second home runs of the season yesterday in a 2-for-4 outing for short-season Staten Island. After an underwhelming year last year between the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and Staten Island, the 2010 first-round pick has raised his slash line to .295/.374/.409 in 37 games.
Travis d'Arnaud, c, Blue Jays: Nobody in Philadelphia is complaining about having Roy Halladay in the Phillies rotation, but the Blue Jays have to be pleased with getting d'Arnaud in return. The 22-year-old went 3-for-5 with a double and hit his 13th home run yesterday, putting him at .318/.386/.537 through 82 games for Double-A New Hampshire.
Adeiny Hechavarria, ss, Blue Jays: D'Arnaud's teammate, Hechavarria played both games of New Hampshire's doubleheader and went 7-for-11. Even with the offensive outburst, Hechavarria is hitting just .227/.265/.334 in 100 games, and scouts aren't seeing many signs of hope with the bat.
Bryce Harper, of, Nationals: Harper had his best game yet since his promotion to Double-A Harrisburg, going 3-for-4 with his first Eastern League home run. He's hitting just .250/.300/.344 through 19 games, but he could hit like that all year and it wouldn't matter; he's still just 18 and easily the top prospect in baseball.
Justin Fitzgerald, rhp, Giants: Fitzgerald struck out a season-high 11 batters in seven innings for Double-A Richmond, allowing two runs (one earned) without issuing a walk. At 25, Fitzgerald is older than most Double-A prospects, but one scout who saw him said he should be able to fit into the back of a major league rotation with a high-80s to low-90s fastball with the ability to mix in average although inconsistent secondary stuff.
Reynaldo Polanco, rhp, Yankees: Looking for a sleeper in Rookie ball? Polanco, 18, signed with the Yankees in 2010 for $450,000. A converted outfielder who switched to pitching not long before he signed, Polanco has a projectable 6-foot-4 frame, a fastball he can run up to the low-to-mid 90s and a potential out pitch in his curveball. Yesterday Polanco struck out a season-high nine batters in five innings in the Gulf Coast League, holding the Blue Jays to two runs with three walks. He's still a project, but his 25-4 K-BB mark over his first 100 batters faced is another sign of the type of talent Polanco offers.
C.J. Cron, DH, Angels: The 17th overall pick in this year's draft just mashes, as Cron went 2-for-5 and hit his seventh home run in 25 games for Rookie-level Orem. Cron, 21, is hitting .279/.339/.510 for the Owlz, though he's yet to wear a glove yet in pro ball.
Chris Archer, rhp, Rays: Archer has been enigmatic for much of the year, showing good stuff but mediocre results for Double-A Montgomery. Even yesterday, Archer tossed seven shutout innings, but he wasn't exactly dominant. He struck out just two of the 30 batters he's faced, walked four, hit two batters and threw a wild pitch. The plus fastball and slider are still there, but he's not missing as many bats as scouts would expect given his stuff, and his control remains a ways away from being big league ready.
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