Drafted out of Oregon State in 2015, Moore could be in the big league by the end of the season.
PEORIA, Ariz. — To watch Andrew Moore throw off a mound against hitters in a live batting practice situation and make a determination of his promise as a starting pitcher would be the easiest way to be deceived.
Generously listed at 6-0, 195 pounds, Moore doesn’t cast an imposing figure on the mound like the 6-foot-8 Max Povse. And once the ball leaves his hand, there isn’t overpowering velocity like 97-mph lasers that are fired by James Paxton.
In that setting, the true value of Moore as a starting pitcher is lost. But put Moore and his bulldog mentality and pinpoint command in a game and you’ll see why he’s viewed by the organization as one of their top starting pitching prospects and worthy of an invite to spring training.
“Andrew has never not pitched well in his entire life, going back to high school,” said Andy McKay, the Mariners’ director of player personnel. “He’s been an incredibly consistent performer.”
Moore was chosen as the Jamie Moyer Minor League Pitcher of the Year award in 2016. He made 28 starts between Class A Bakersfield and Class AA Jackson. He posted a 12-4 record with 2.65 ERA while striking out 133 batters and walking 31 in 163 innings pitched. He allowed three earned runs or less in 25 of his 28 starts. He was also brilliant in the postseason for the Generals in the Southern League playoffs, making two starts and allowing two runs on just seven hits with no walks in 15 innings pitched.
But it was a moment in Bakersfield sitting next to Moyer during a game that left a lasting mark on him.
“He talked about how when he got into a tough situation or a big game and he’d try to throw easier because you know that extra adrenaline, that extra little kick you get, is going to be in there,” Moore said. “And if you try to throw harder, you tense up, and that’s when you’re going to leave one down the middle or get sporadic. That’s something I’ve definitely had to improve on. I’m still working on it, but I’ve seen progress.”
Moore can find similarities in Moyer and the way he was perceived. He has heard the detractors discuss his diminutive frame and fastball that doesn’t reach the mid 90s.
“To me, baseball is a game where size doesn’t matter at all,” Moore said. “You can go out there and compete. (Jose) Altuve was one of the best hitters in the bigs, and he goes out there and plays like he’s the biggest guy on the field.”
It was a mindset that he first developed early in his career at Oregon State when he converted from an infielder to a full-time pitcher.
“A scout from the Cubs, my freshman year at Oregon State, before I was making my first start, he said, ‘I’ll tell you exactly what I told Darwin Barney in his first outing. You might be the smallest guy on the field, but you have to play like you’re the biggest,'” Moore said. “And that’s something that really clicked for me, and I try to take that out there. I have to compete that much harder and never let my guard down. It’s almost more fun that way. It’s a good challenge for me. I look forward to that.”
The Mariners selected Moore with a second-round compensatory pick (No. 72) in the 2015 draft. He used his stellar command and multi-pitch repertoire to rise quickly up the organization depth chart.
After being promoted to the Class AA level in May, Moore went 9-3 with a 3.16 ERA in 19 starts, including a run of seven straight starts where he went 6-0 with a 1.99 ERA. In 108 1/3 innings pitched, he struck out 86 batters and walked 18.
His first full season was a learning experience.
“You just learn how to conserve your body over time,” he said. “In college you start once every seven days, now you are starting every five days and it’s a huge adjustment. I logged more innings than I ever have. Hitters are able to make adjustments way quicker. You had to learn how to get guys out two and three times. It was fun to work that.”
Questions about his durability have followed him in his career. But he handled the heavier workload in 2016.
“I think my (velocity) was better at the end of the year than it was at the beginning, and that came from working with the strength coaches and keeping up my strength and mobility throughout the whole season,” he said. “I don’t think size plays into it a whole lot when it’s just about getting outs, and that’s all I try to do. I’m not thinking about my size when I’m out there, I’m just trying to compete and have fun to the best of my ability.”
Moore knows he’s far from a complete pitcher. He went into the offseason with a few goals.
“Curveball is the one big pitch I really need to develop,” he said. “It’s just really inconsistent. Getting that for a putout pitch would be big. That’s the next thing I’m going after.”
From a mechanics standpoint Moore is different than many other pitchers. His delivery from the windup is far from traditional. He doesn’t begin the windup with his left foot taking a step to the side. Instead, the foot is placed a little askew and Moore kicks his left leg from there. Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer has somewhat similar beginning with the left foot. It’s something Moore started in college.
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“I was always have trouble getting my (right) foot on the rubber and it would come unattached and my direction wasn’t going to home plate so my pitching coach showed me video of Bauer,” Moore said. “He’s one of the first that did it. And I started messing around with it. It’s kind of funky and a little uncomfortable, but it worked. It definitely helped me with my direction and my mechanics.”
The mechanics are still not a finished product.
“It was definitely process,” he said. “I’m still changing the speed of it, my leg kick and where I put my hands. It’s an ever-evolving process. It simplifies everything. It takes the chance of any misdirection away.”
Moore sees the other benefits of it.
“It makes it hard for the hitters to get timing on me because a lot of them time you when you do set that foot down,” he said. “They don’t really know when I’m coming. So it does throw them off and I think it really helped my changeup to have that kind of quick motion and then throw the changeup.”
There are roots in the delivery of another pitcher from the Northwest.
“I have the back lean like (Tim) Lincecum had,” Moore said. “Growing up I watched a ton of him. So I don’t if that’s the reason why. But there’s some lean and I have the funky arm slot too. That’s always how I’ve thrown. There are pictures of me throwing when I was young and it’s the same. That’s what I stuck with.”
Can it carry him to the big leagues? Moore will likely start the season at Class AA Arkansas. But the Mariners believe he will be in the big leagues soon.
“That trajectory, you can read it just like I can,” McKay said. “People who keep getting people out and keep winning games tend to move up. I have no doubt in my mind how the story is going to end for Andrew Moore.”