If you are looking for one word to describe Steven Moya, you have a few different choices. "Massive" is an easy one. Moya is listed at six feet, six inches tall and weighs 230 pounds. Scouts who have seen him in real life say he's every bit as big as the roster sheet indicates. "Powerful" is another option. Moya hit 35 home runs last season and could easily match that total in the major leagues if he makes enough contact.
However, I'm choosing the word "polarizing." Tigers fans are all over the map with Moya. Some think he's the team's next star, capable of putting up multiple 30 homer seasons with a short flick of his wrists. Some think he lacks the plate discipline and pitch recognition skills to become anything more than a fourth outfielder in the major leagues. Moya ranked 10th on our 2014 list and third on TigsTown's top 50 rankings ($), but he failed to even crack the top 20 on Minor League Ball.
We don't know who is right (yet), but there are enough believers out there to make Moya the top prospect in our 2015 rankings.
Moya is Puerto Rican by birth, but the Tigers signed him out of the Dominican Republic in 2008. He spent the 2009 season in the Dominican Summer League, then made his stateside debut for the Gulf Coast League Tigers in 2010. Despite a .190 batting average and .528 OPS in 144 plate appearances, the Tigers promoted Moya all the way to Single-A West Michigan in 2011. He only fared slightly better that year, hitting .204/.234/.362 with 13 home runs in 337 at-bats.
Still only 20 years old, Moya repeated the Single-A level in 2012. He improved across the board, hitting .288/.319/.481 with 26 extra base hits in 258 plate appearances. Unfortunately, Moya would only appear in 59 games for the Whitecaps before undergoing Tommy John surgery in July. He was able to return to action the following April, and hit .255/.296/.433 with 12 home runs and 55 RBI for the Advanced-A Lakeland Flying Tigers. With questions still surrounding his big league upside, Moya took a gigantic step forward in 2014, hitting .276/.306/.555 with 35 home runs and 105 RBI at Double-A Erie.
Any discussion about Moya begins and ends with his prodigious power. While the hit tool is a big issue, the other facets of his game are actually quite solid. Moya projects to be a league average runner and defender, and his arm is above average. He missed nearly a year's worth of action after having Tommy John surgery in June of 2012, but reports suggest that his arm strength hasn't suffered too much. He stole 16 bases in 20 chances in 2014, but probably won't crack double digits in the majors. He has surprising athleticism for someone his size, though his routes have been deemed "adventurous" at times. Many people attribute this to Moya's inexperience, which could result in further improvement with more reps. Despite the occasional mishap, Moya should not have any trouble sticking in right field at the major league level.
And then there's the power. A physical specimen at six-foot-six and 230 pounds, Moya possesses 80 grade raw power, the highest grade given on the 20-to-80 scouting scale. There are only a handful of 80-grade tools throughout the entire minor leagues, and Moya's power is as legit as anyone's. Minor League Ball's Dan Weigel made note of Moya's impressive power during a first-hand look last August.
He has terrific batspeed and the ball jumps off his bat when he makes contact. In one of his plate appearances, Moya was fooled and skied a pop up straight in the air to right that made it all the way to the warning track, demonstrating that even if he doesn’t square up the ball, Moya still possesses enough raw power to hit home runs.
One of the most encouraging signs about Moya is how he progressed in 2014. In his first full season at the minor league level, Moya impressed, hitting 35 home runs and driving in 105 RBI. He hit .276 with an impressive .555 slugging average, resulting in a .279 ISO. Scouts took notice of his improvement as well. Two Baseball Prospectus scouts saw Moya play in May and August, respectively, and the difference in reports is significant. Tucker Blair's report from May is quite bearish, and contains a 20 hit tool and 45 overall future potential (OFP) grade, or a below average major league player. Mark Anderson of TigsTown gave him a 65 OFP in August. Even Anderson's realistic role -- or the "what should we actually expect from this guy?" grade -- was a 50, better than Blair's highest projection three months earlier.
Like I said, polarizing.
As impressive as Moya's power is, his hit tool and plate discipline are equally lacking. Moya hit .276 at Double A in 2014, but has a paltry .251 career batting average in six minor league seasons. He only drew 23 walks in 2014, the 237th best total in Double A last year. Jordan derided Moya's approach at the plate (or lack thereof) in last year's profile.
Most great hitters are this way: they have a plan of attack, know the situation, and adjust accordingly. Moya basically just went up there every time trying to hit the ball 700 feet. Whether there were runners on base, how many guys were out, what the score or count happened to be, didn't make a difference.
Moya is also undone by a long swing -- which is to be expected, given his size -- and poor contact skills. He has shown improvements in his ability to get the barrel of the bat on the ball, but still struck out 161 times in 549 plate appearances last season, a 29.3 percent clip. Amazingly, this high strikeout rate already represents a major improvement from Moya. He struck out in nearly 40 percent of his plate appearances in his first two years in the U.S., a pair of forgettable seasons in Lakeland and West Michigan. His long swing can be exposed by good velocity and command, which he will see much more of at the major league level.
Moya will need to improve his pitch recognition skills in order to develop a better approach at the plate. If he can learn to force opposing pitchers to throw strikes -- make no mistake, this would be a monumental step for him -- he could do some major damage.
Video via Jordan Gorosh and MLB Farm
Projected team: Toledo Mud Hens
While Moya's size and power earned him the top spot in our countdown, he still needs time to develop his approach at the plate in the minor leagues. The trade for Yoenis Cespedes all but guaranteed that Moya will spend most of 2015 in Toledo. I don't necessarily want to call this a "make or break" season for Moya, but his production at the highest level of the minors will go a long way in determining how big of a role the Tigers give him in 2016. Expect Moya to see time in Detroit this year, but if he is playing a major role, the Tigers are in trouble.
New addition: Tyler Collins, outfielder
Collins gave Tigers fans a brief glimpse of his talents in 2014, hitting a monster home run in his first at-bat after being called up on September 1st. He made the Tigers' roster out of spring training last season, but only appeared in seven games before being sent down to Triple-A Toledo. Collins made the most out of his demotion, hitting .263/.335/.423 with 18 home runs and 62 RBI in his first year at the Triple A level. Collins will lose prospect eligibility when he turns 25 next season, but he will likely graduate prior to his birthday as a backup outfielder in 2015.