When the Seattle Mariners took Andrew Moore with their second pick, the 72nd overall pick in 2015, many scouts were surprised. The consensus on Moore was he would be taken anywhere from the 6th - 10th rounds of the draft; maybe the 4th or 5th, if he was lucky. Many thought he would return to anchor the OSU Beavers’ pitching staff for his senior season, although the 850k+ signing bonus associated with the 72nd slot quickly popped that particular dream-bubble. Many labeled the pick a reach, or pondered if there might have been some hometown bias in the selection.
Moore, for what it’s worth, does not seem to have let becoming a near-millionaire go to his head. His Instagram is full of typical late-college-kid fare: standing on the sidelines at an OSU football game, hanging out with friends at sporting events, his ever-present orange Beavers hat clashing fantastically with his hair, Ron Weasley/Chudley Cannons-esque. When the Jackson Generals won the Southern League Championship, in a crazy, champagne-soaked locker room, Moore volunteered to take a picture of team announcer Brandon Liebhaber holding the championship trophy. He’s that kind of guy, as anyone who knows him will be quick to testify. His baseball IQ is apparently off-the-charts; he journals after every start to reflect on his performance, reminiscent of the extensive notes Jamie Moyer used to take. In fact, when Moyer came to visit Jackson, Moore sought him out for advice, and when Moyer walked out with Moore to present him with the minor league pitching award this past summer at Safeco, the two laughed it up on the red carpet like old friends.
Watch Moore carefully when you see him in person: his body language is always relaxed, even when it shouldn’t be, whether he’s accepting an award in front of 30,000 fans at Safeco or pitching in a championship game with a one-run lead. He radiates calm and control, the same control he will exert over the strike zone. In college, Moore went 27-9 with a 2.10 ERA over almost 350 innings pitched. In those 350 innings, Moore allowed a hit to 276 of the 1380 batters he faced. That means 80% of the time batters faced Andrew Moore, they walked away with nothing. (Oh, what’s that, you say maybe they got a walk? Okay, but only 75 of them did. That’s 5%.) There’s nothing exciting about Moore’s strikeout rate (18%), but who cares. ERA and pitcher wins don’t mean much in a vacuum, but they can still be good indicators when examined in context, and the peripheral stats support this: when Andrew Moore was on the mound in college, chances were high he was not going to let batters get past him, and his team was going to win the game.
So why was Moore pegged to go in the eighth round, probably returning to OSU for his senior season? His numbers certainly suggest he is an above-average pitcher. Let’s compare him with fellow prospect Brent Honeywell of the Rays’ organization, who was conveniently also the 72nd overall pick, in 2014. Honeywell was tabbed as a #3 starter (or MORP, Middle of the Rotation Pitcher), vs. Moore, who has been tabbed as a #4 or #5 starter (or BORP, which is—you got it—Back of the Roatation Pitcher). Honeywell was seen as a moderate reach, being declared a “money-saver” who was destined for the bullpen, which if you watched him in the Southern League this year or the AFL is a big old knee-jerker of a larf. Honeywell doesn’t really have any college track record to speak of, having played in 13 games at Walters State Community College before being drafted, where he pitched two shutouts and five complete games out of the thirteen, which, okay. (He also walked 15 batters in those 13 games, a number at which Andrew Moore sneers.) In those 13 games, Honeywell issued 102 strikeouts. Wow! Predictably, scouts were impressed with Honeywell and his strikeouts and his unicorn, the screwball, even if they felt he was a slight overreach. But scouts were generally positive about him, noting he “looks the part of a pitcher in today’s baseball world.”
And this is what it really comes down to, for Moore. He doesn’t have the lantern jaw and slicked-back hair and Ayn-Rand-hero-look so many products of the baseball factory have. He has a curly mop that makes him look like a rogue Weasley, warm brown eyes, and that particular PNW skin tone that runs from ghost-pale to tomato-red in a matter of seconds. He looks like every nice kid who works at your local takeout place and always gets the order right. He’s got a slight build. And he’s short.
5’11” isn’t short, of course. But it’s short for baseball scouts who still care about the idea of “looking the part of a pitcher” (Honeywell is 6’2”). It’s short in an era where height, and the magical downhill motion and velocity that are apparently height’s handmaidens, are given pride of place at the table. And despite the many studies that have been done showing a pitcher’s height doesn’t necessarily correlate to their ability to get out major league batters, to say Moore didn’t pay a height penalty in those early scouting reports is naked denial.
Greg Maddux, at 6’0”, was also considered short. Tipping the scales in the 180s, he was also thought to be too little to be strong or durable. Today, Maddux is revered for his control and pinpoint accuracy, but not necessarily recognized as a strikeout pitcher. Yet in a piece from earlier this year, Beyond the Box Score found that Maddux consistently ran a K-rate higher than league average. Similarly, Andrew Moore is not given enough credit for his ability to induce strikeouts. One of the knocks on Moore is he possesses no true “out” pitch, which supposedly limits his abilities to strike batters out. Rather, Moore relies on establishing his average velocity fastball early in games by commanding it on both sides of the plate. He mixes in a serviceable changeup, and this year took a step forward with an improved slider (or what he calls a slider/cutter combo), thanks to a shiny new grip. He has actually improved on his college strikeout numbers, posting a 28.5% K rate in short season, a 22.4% K rate in his brief stay in the hitter-friendly California League, and 19.7% at AA, facing top prospects like Dustin Peterson, Jake Bauers, and Dansby Swanson.
As far as durability concerns, a brief sojourn through Andrew Moore’s delivery should put one at ease. Here’s his delivery in college:
Even in college, Moore shows a delivery that is smooth, fluid, balanced, and repeatable. In his first exposure to pro ball, at Everett, he smooths out that final part of his follow through. Whereas in college he would often fly open with the back leg as he finished the pitch, you can see that motion become more controlled in Everett, as he plants the leg at the end, readying himself to field the ball if it’s hit back to him:
Moore is a quick worker. He gets the ball back fast, he winds fast, and the ball comes out of his hand fast, compensating for his softer velocity. His incredible command, to my mind, comes from the fact that he is always balanced, as if there was a string running from the crown of his head straight into the mound, like a jumping jack. Everything he does rotates around this invisible string; every movement is counterbalanced and held in place by a central core.
In Jackson, Moore streamlined his movements even more. He finishes with his chest almost perfectly parallel to the ground and then stands right up like he’s done throwing his MLB-caliber pitch and is back to waiting in line for coffee. If you freeze that gif at any point, I guarantee you Moore will be in balance: one arm drops exactly as the other comes up. One leg bends as the other straightens. There’s a complex pulley system going on behind the curtain, invisible to the audience. All we see is the result: batter after batter after batter returning to the bench. Like Maddux, Moore would rather get you out with a one-pitch easy grounder; the better to go deep into games with. In an odd parallel to his freshman season at OSU, when Moore pitched his first complete game shutout late in the year and followed it with another CGSO in the playoffs, in Jackson this year Moore pitched a CGSO once, followed it with eight scoreless innings in his final regular season start, and then pitched almost eight scoreless innings in the playoffs, keeping his pitch count in check each time. Moore, like Maddux, is all about control, and he knows that the best way to control the game is to stay in it as long as you can.
Moore’s consistency across these various levels is impressive. Despite the small tweaks, the main pieces are still there: the smooth torso rotation, the quick but controlled leg kick, the tidy finish. His delivery puts him at a low risk for injury as it is endlessly repeatable, and has clearly been endlessly repeated; he has played his scales and his movements on the mound feel second nature. When Greg Maddux pitched, you got the sense it was his mound, his strikezone, his ballpark, really, and he was just loaning it out to everyone for a short while. That’s the same feeling I get watching Moore, who stands taller than his 5’11” frame. On the mound, he is a titan.