Steven Moya continues to impress with the Arizona Fall League. After hitting 35 home runs with Double-A Erie this season, the tall right fielder mashed his first homer in Arizona Saturday night, finishing 2-for-4, where he reached on an error and scored three times to keep his batting average at a healthy .303. Moya is now settling in and he's showing an ability to bounce back after hitless nights at the plate.
Moya got off to a hot start in Arizona before he cooled briefly. Moya, who has had a difficult time (results-wise) against right-handed pitchers in the AFL, is demonstrating he is capable of making the adjustments. Moya is reportedly looking comfortable against righties, according to MLB Pipeline scout, Bernie Pleskoff, as opposed to left-handed pitching where he "needs work against southpaws. Bails a bit."
On the bases, Moya has done well. Apart from Saturday's results where he scored three times, Moya stole both second and third base on Thursday, including a review of a safe-call of third. On the steal to second base, Moya was nearly standing up before the tag got even got to him. Both steals occurred in the same inning. (Second base steal: MLB.com video) (Third base review: MLB.com video)
Moya has four steals overall, to go along with three walks. Of note, all the walks occurred on a night where Moya went hitless, and twice he came around to score (both against the same team). His strikeouts are a bit on the high side still, taking nine strikeouts including three two-strikeout nights.
Of his results so far, Moya is happy to be facing a higher level of baseball, and it's paying off. "It feels good," Moya told MiLB's Robert Emrich. "I'm not really not trying to hit home runs, but it still feels good. The first one feels really good. Just recognizing pitches and getting better at recognition of the strike zone is what I'm working on right now. Just cutting down on strikeouts. That's about it."
Despite his size, Moya's performance at the plate and on the field hasn't suffered. Saturday marked the first time Moya had recorded a multi-hit night without striking out once and his defense has been reported as being solid. He has no errors in right field through nine games played.
Regarding Moya's defense, Pleskoff recently said Moya is "certainly fine in the field. Tall and lanky, long strides."
The AFL is critical for Moya, who is on track to participate in winter ball with the Estrellas in the Dominican League at the conclusion of the AFL. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus was traveling to Arizona to get a look at Moya, as well as Robbie Ray and other players in the Tigers' minor league system. In his end-of-the-season press conference, president and GM Dave Dombrowski spoke highly of Moya and the season he had with Erie, though he said the team wasn't sure if Moya would be ready for a corner position with the Tigers next season.
"He has so much ability that you are kind of waiting for it to happen, for it to keep progressing so it can happen — but I'm not sitting here ready to tell you that for sure, he's going to be one of our corner outfielder's next year," Dombrowski said. "May he be? Perhaps."
There is hope Moya will be ready, particularly because of the amount of playing time he will see during the Tigers' offseason. At the very least he will have a good chance to be a power bat off the bench for the 2015 season. If that were to be the case, Moya would help fill a hole on the bench that was glaringly obvious in the 2014 postseason.
While Moya has been busy at the plate, Ray has gotten off to a good start in the AFL, despite having to deal with the difficulties of adjusting to a pitch-clock. Ray violated the rule on his first outing before he'd even thrown a strike and was not happy about it.
However, Ray recovered to strike out the first batter he faced and he went on to strikeout five in three innings of work. (MLB.com video) He walked one and gave up just one single in that time. Ray has not allowed a run to score through five innings of work and two appearances.
Ray violated the rule because he did not pitch in the time allotted, 20 seconds. As a result, he was automatically charged with a ball. It was the fourth such violation to be recorded by a pitcher in the AFL during the experimental time period. The rules state that the clock begins when the pitcher is in possession of the ball and ends when he begins his motion towards the plate.
"A pitcher shall be allowed 20 seconds to throw each pitch," the recent MLB statement says. "The batter must be in the box prepared for the pitch during the entire 20-second period. If the batter steps out of the box during the 20-second period, the pitcher may deliver the pitch and the umpire may call a strike, unless the batter was first granted time by the umpire."
Also of note, Double-A Erie left-handed reliever Joe Mantiply struck out two Saturday night, needing just 13 pitches (10 strikes) as he closed out a 9–4 win for the Glendale Desert Dogs. It was his fifth appearance in relief and Mantiply has given up just three hits and one run in that time, the run occurring during his first outing on October 7, along with his lone walk to date. Mantiply has struck out five in all and his ERA sits at 1.93.
Chad Smith and Zach Reininger haven't fared so well in Arizona, Smith taking the brunt of the poor performance with a 15.00 ERA through three innings. He's given up five runs on seven hits, walking four while striking out three in that time. Reininger has given up three runs on three hits, including a home run while issuing three walks.
Daniel Fields is getting comfortable at the plate again, retaining a .294 batting average with five hits and five runs scored on 17 at-bats. Fields has a home run, three RBI, and three walks through five games with three stolen bases (four attempts) and six strikeouts.