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Steven Moya making adjustments in minors, positioning himself well for the future

With more than 60 games under his belt with High-A Lakeland, Moya has made adjustments that can give Tigers fans reason to be cautiously optimistic about his future.

With football season around the corner, some may mistake Steven Moya, the Tigers 6’6", 230-pound outfield prospect, for a wide receiver hoping to play across the street from Comerica Park. As TPR has previously noted, Moya projects as a high-ceiling, low-floor prospect by virtue of his athleticism, considering his size, and raw power. Turning 22 in September, scouting rhetoric may still prove to more accurately depict Moya than statistical analysis from his first few years in the minors. However, a closer look at his performance can help reveal his progress, or lack thereof, towards realizing his lofty potential.

First, in order to win consistently at the back end of Prince Fielder and Justin Verlander’s $200 million contracts, the Tigers may need high-risk, high-reward prospects like Moya to materialize. The prospects that can help the Tigers win now fit the profile of a safe contributor; the big league team’s current core does not need elite prospects emerging from the farm to contend for a World Series this season and next. Moya’s ideal big league debut could coincide with an organizational change in approach, by financial necessity. If the Tigers can strike gold with Moya and a couple of other high-ceiling prospects, they may avoid the precipitous decline that many pundits predict will result from the final years of the aforementioned mega-contracts.

Nick Castellanos could provide great value through his arbitration years, and he appears as groomed as a prospect can be for a successful foray in the majors. Though six months older, Moya has to prove he can make many more adjustments before the Tigers can expect him to man the outfield with Castellanos.

Moya has dealt with a pair of injuries the past couple of years that have slowed his development. After making major strides last year from his underwhelming 2011 campaign with Low-A West Michigan, Moya had Tommy John surgery and sat out for the second half of 2012. The Tigers still decided to promote him a level this season, so he played a few games with High-A Lakeland before a hamstring injury sidelined him for six weeks. Moya has now played in 62 games at Lakeland, three more than his total last year with West Michigan. Here is a look at his plate discipline and power numbers over the past couple of years:

Year Level OPS HR BB% K%
2012 Low-A .800 9 4.3 22.9
2013 High-A .761 10 4.2 26.2

Given his injury setbacks, Moya has seamlessly transitioned. High strikeouts continue to plague him, and his power will only reach its full potential if he can prove to pitchers that they must pitch him in the zone to get him out. Moya’s overall output still allows for room to imagine a perennial all-star, yet it does little to increase the likelihood that he reaches that standard.

Fans can find some reason for increased optimism when essentially splitting Moya’s 2013 season into two halves. While admittedly arbitrary, this exercise has some merit for a couple of reasons: his inevitable rust from returning from injury and the time allowed for adjustments to a new level.

Games in 2013 HR BB% K% AVG
1-30 1 2.4 28.5 .227
31-62 9 5.8 24.1 .295

While a claim that attributes the disparity to randomness cannot be disproven, one can conclude with a reasonable level of certainty that Moya has made adjustments and improved. I would rather see fluctuation of this sort that fits the adjustments narrative than steady performance from Moya with the same overall numbers. Without an advanced scouting report, I cannot be sure of the exact adjustments Moya has made. Improved plate discipline and power suggest a more patient approach. It only should take a few mistakes for Moya’s power to manifest itself, and getting ahead in counts a bit more frequently could explain some of the difference.

Tigers fans should feel just a bit more optimistic about Moya than they did entering the year. He has struggled and seemingly made adjustments to his approach at the plate, an encouraging sign. While looking for various streaks in player performance can lead to selection bias, I recommend doing it with young, developing prospects, accepting that the process could occasionally be misleading. Ideally the adjustment pattern reflects tangible improvement to Moya’s game and brings him a step closer to realizing his potential.

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