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Tigers prospect Steven Moya off to impressive start in Arizona Fall League

After his brief stint with the Tigers in September, Steven Moya is performing well in the Arizona Fall League, picking up where he left off in the regular season.

Ed Zurga

When the Tigers' roster expanded in September, rightfielder Steven Moya was among those called up to Detroit. The 23-year-old batted .375 in 11 games and eight at-bats, but was not chosen for the postseason roster when the Tigers took on the Orioles in the short-lived ALDS. Moya went home, re-packed his bags, and headed for the Arizona Fall League, where he's gotten off to an impressive start.

Moya currently ranks fifth overall in the AFL for batting average, and is hitting .462/.500/.615. Through three games, he is 6-for-13 with two doubles (including a two-run double), three RBI, three runs scored, a walk, and a stolen base. He has struck out twice.

Ranked by MLB.com as the Tigers' No. 7 prospect, Moya performed well in the regular season. He hit with power, hitting 35 home runs, 33 doubles, and 105 RBI, and his slugging percentage towered at .555 for Double-A Erie. Prior to the 2014 season, Moya had just 34 home runs in two seasons with the West Michigan Whitecaps, and a year with the Lakeland Flying Tigers.

A left-handed bat, Moya wasn't anticipated to hit well against lefties, but he surpassed those expectations in the regular season and his splits in Arizona are identical. Moya has gotten three of his six hits off left-handed pitching, including a line-drive double.

Moya has essentially picked up where he left off during the regular season with Erie, and with the Tigers in his few at-bats in September. Like most players participating in the AFL, Moya is spending his time in Arizona to fine-tune his skills in preparation for spring training in 2015.

In the AFL opening game for the Glendale Desert Dogs, Moya had a three hit, three RBI day. The Tigers are hoping that by facing a more competitive level, Moya will gain much-needed experience against more difficult pitching and refine his plate discipline.

If the 6' 6" slugger is going to competitively pursue a role with the Tigers in spring training (or anytime in the future), Moya is going to need more at-bats to work on his approach. Moya has a long swing that needs to be shortened, and his strikeouts need to decrease. The games in Arizona will give him time to do that.

Moya struck out 161 times in 133 games with Double-A Erie, and he struck out twice in eight at-bats with the Tigers in September. For comparison, former Tiger Austin Jackson struck out 144 times in 154 games in 2014. If Moya can sharpen his skills and shorten his swing in the offseason, he could become valuable for the Tigers in the future.

Joining Moya in the AFL, are six other Tigers minor league players. Robbie Ray, who made six starts for the Tigers in the 2014 season, made his first start on October 10. He gave up one hit and no runs in his two innings of work, striking out two.

Triple-A Toledo outfielder, Daniel Fields, who missed time in the regular season for a broken finger, is busy playing catch-up. In two games with the Desert Dogs, Fields is 2-for-7 with a home run, two RBI, and two walks, striking out twice. Right-handed pitcher Zac Reininger, a reliever for Single-A West Michigan, has pitched two innings. He has not allowed a hit but walked a batter, striking out one in two games of work.

Righty reliever, Joe Mantiply, has given up a run, a hit, and a walk in two innings of work, while Chad Smith, who had 10 games of relief work with Detroit, has yet to play a game. Second baseman Domingo Leyba is 1-for-6 in two games with a walk and a strikeout.