The Phillies’ 2007 season was a roller-coaster of emotions that made fans hold their breath until the last days of the season. The Phillies clinched the NL East making their first playoff berth since 1993. This began a five-year run as divisional champions. The 2007 MLB Player Draft was pretty uneventful for the Phillies besides the drafting of catcher Travis d’Arnaud, who eventually became part of the deal that snagged the Phillies Roy Halladay in 2010. The draft pick in this spotlight is the player chosen by Tampa Bay as the 245th overall pick, Matt Moore. 

 

Young Future

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays (changed to Rays in 2008) had come off an unsuccessful season going 61-101 in the AL East. Since the foundation of the franchise, the Devil Rays tumultuous losing seasons plagued “The Big Guava,” but there was hope. The Devil Rays drafted Third Base phenom Evan Longoria in 2006 and the mid to high-90s flamethrower of David Price Round 1, Pick 1 overall in 2007. Not even these A-potential prospects are what catch the eye for this article, but rather a young southpaw from New Mexico drafted in the 8th round, Matt Moore. Moore became a steal for the Rays tearing it up in the minor leagues, becoming a coveted prospect, and debuting in 2011. 

 

The Return of Matt Moore

The Phillies have reportedly signed Matt Moore, age 31, to a one-year major league contract for $3 million dollars. Moore will get a shot at the rotation because of the lack of consistency from top-prospect Spencer Howard and veteran right-hander Vince Velazquez.  

Though Matt Moore has yet to reach the heights of the most highly regarded pitching prospects, he is by no means a dud. he still sports a low-90s fastball according to his scouting report and can compound that with a change-up, curveball, and two-seamer which would benefit the Phillies and their need for strong left-handed pitching this upcoming season. 

Moore is coming off a stellar season with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of the Japanese Baseball League (NPB), where he went 6-3 with a 2.65 ERA and helped the Hawks win the Japan Series his first year there. Before that, he was a top pitching prospect for the Tampa Bay Rays going 11-11 with a 3.81 ERA in his first full season with the team in 2012. In 2013, Moore pitched his best MLB season going 17-4 with a 3.29 ERA and was 9th in the Cy Young Award voting. 

Moore is poised for a comeback in the MLB. If given starting opportunities with the Phillies, he could serve as their premier southpaw on the rotation, especially if he produces similar outings to that of his  2020 championship season with the Hawks in Japan.

 

Injuries

After Tommy John surgery in 2014, Moore was traded to the San Francisco Giants where he had flashes of success during the regular season. In the 2016 NLDS against the Cubs, he only gave up two runs after pitching for eight innings. The Cubs went on to break their curse and Moore got traded to the Rangers where his ERA ballooned to a 6.79. The following year, Moore became a free agent and signed with the rebuilding Detroit Tigers on a one-year deal for the 2019 season. But it did not last long, due to a knee injury, and had to have meniscus surgery, forcing him out for the rest of the season. 

 

Reasons to have Phaith?

There are quite a few MLB players that have gone to the Nippon Baseball League (NPB) or the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) to keep playing professionally and to possibly make a return to the MLB. The Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Merrill Kelly started his professional career with the SK Wyverns and then came over to the MLB. Kelly had a great season in 2020 going 3-2 with a 2.59 ERA which is not bad given the Diamondbacks being in the last place of the NL West. The Diamondback starter was limited to 5 starts because of a shoulder injury

An unexpected rebound to Major League Baseball is Miles Mikolas. Mikolas did not pitch in 2020 because he underwent surgery to fix his flexor tendon in his right arm. The right-hander from Jupiter, FL had a cumulative 4.94 ERA in three MLB seasons with the San Diego Padres and Texas Ranger before he was released at the end of the 2014 season. From 2015-2017, Mikolas went 33-13 with 2.18 ERA with the Yomiuri Giants which translated to his comeback to the majors in 2018 with the Cardinals. In his first year back in the MLB, Mikolas went 18-4 with a 2.83 ERA and led the National League in wins that year. Both Merrill and Mikolas look to bounce back from their injuries in the 2021 season. 

 

Hope is Here

Matt Moore has the potential to use his time with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks to rejuvenate his career. It is not unheard of for a pitcher to jump-start his career late in the game, for example, Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke have both suffered injuries and setbacks and found a way to adapt. But there are risks given Moore’s injury history. Even Phillies legend, Jamie Moyer helped the Phillies snag their second World Series in 2008 at the ripe old age of 45, so anything can happen. 

The successes of aging pitchers always will be a concern for MLB teams, but there are some gambles worth betting on. The players returning from the KBO and NPB ready for a comeback may be vital additions to MLB teams. Dave Dombrowski and the Phillies believe in his ability to create depth at starting pitching and Phillies fans should look forward to the upcoming 2021 pitching rotation.

 

Photo: Kyodo via AP Images/Kyodo

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