For a handful of years, Steven Moya has been the Detroit Tigers prospect-to-watch. He has had a couple of September call-ups so coaches and fans can see if he is ready for the big leagues. Moya has been busy this off-season, playing in the Dominican Republic. He is currently on the 40-man roster for 2016. Does he have what it takes to make it to the 25-man roster?
Moya has been with the Tigers since 2009 when he 17 years old and playing in the Dominican Summer League. He has played with the Single-A West Michigan White Caps, the Single-A+ Lakeland Flying Tigers, the Double-A Erie Seawolves, and in the Dominican Winter League. He has also played in the Arizona Fall League.
He spent most of 2015 with the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens where he played left and right field (although mostly right field). He batted .240/.420/.703 in 500 at-bats with 20 home runs in Toledo. He had a .980 fielding percentage in 97 games at right field and 1.000 in his 13 games in left field. He had a total of four errors in Toledo in 2015.
Moya is often described as a freak-of-nature. He is built like a basketball player with long legs and arms, but excels in baseball. At 6’7 and 260 pounds, he is easy to spot both on and off the field. By comparison, Miguel Cabrera looms large at 6’4 and 240 and Doug Fister is a whopping 6’8 at 210. Moya’s long legs make him a quick outfielder, but they also give him a large strike zone. And, he has a problem with striking out.
In the winter league in the Dominican Republic, Moya, a left-handed batter, is performing quite well. During his first 36 games with the Toros del Este, he is hitting well at .286 in 137 at-bats. He has 29 RBIs, 6 home runs, 10 walks, and 36 strikeouts. At one per game, that strike-out rate is only 26%, which is better than his 32% he had during the regular season in Toledo. In his short call-up season in Detroit in 2015, he had a 45% strike-out percentage while batting .182/.273/.553 in 22 at-bats. If the Tigers are looking for better patience at the plate, it appears that Moya has been working on it.
The biggest problem that Moya faces is the fact that the Tigers have an everyday right fielder in J.D. Martinez. Unless the Tigers decide not to extend his contract (which is highly unlikely), Moya is not going to be needed in the 25-man roster. Moya appears to do well in left field, which is where the Tigers have a weakness, but young Tyler Collins has better stats at the plate batting .266/.417/.732. And, Cameron Maybin, who hit .267/.327/.697 in 2015, has even more experience and success in the outfield. Anthony Gose, who also had issues with strikeouts in 2015, is also expected to be part of the platoon in 2016.
Anyone who watched Moya in the few games he played with the Tigers in 2015 could see that he did not pass the “eye-ball test.” He looked rather uncomfortable at the plate and swung at just about every pitch. In the final game of the 2015 season against the Chicago White Sox, he looked like he was done for the season instead of looking like the guy who wanted a spot on the team.
This off-season and spring training will be important for Steven Moya. At his current level of production, he is most likely destined to remain in the Minor Leagues for at least another season. If he cannot reduce his strikeouts or increase his hits and home runs numbers, he will remain there for a longer time. Moya is 24 years old compare this to Nick Castellanos at 23), so he does have some more time to work on his plate discipline and defensive play, too.
Is Steven Moya ready for the big leagues? Most likely not in 2016, especially for the Tigers. He will be one to watch in Toledo, but don’t be surprised if he turns into a trading piece since the Tigers now have so many outfielders. Once the Tigers make their decisions on the outfield positions and if Martinez signs a lengthy extension, Moya could be gone at the trade deadline or even sooner.