Moya, Tigers prospects working in AFL

Steven Moya, 23, went 3-for-8 in 11 games with the Tigers.

David Richard

The Detroit Tigers got a brief glimpse of what outfielder Steven Moya could do when he was called up in September.

Now Moya and a few other Tigers prospects are honing their craft in the Arizona Fall League.

Joining Moya on the Glendale Desert Dogs are fellow outfielder Daniel Fields, infielder Domingo Leyba, right-hander Joe Mantiply, right-hander Zac Reininger, right-hander Chad Smith and left-hander Robbie Ray.

The Desert Dogs are managed by Double-A Erie manager Lance Parrish.

Moya, 23, went 3-for-8 in 11 games with the Tigers.

With the Erie Seawolves, Moya won the Eastern League MVP Award by batting .276 with 35 home runs and 105 RBI. He had 161 strikeouts and 23 walks in 515 at-bats.

In 14 games with the Desert Dogs, Moya is batting .304 with three home runs and 12 RBI. 

Those numbers won him a spot in this Saturday’s Fall Stars Game. Since the Desert Dogs (8-9-1) are leading the AFL West, Parrish and his staff will manage the West team.

He has 17 strikeouts and four walks in 56 at-bats.

"Just focusing on the strike zone and swinging at strikes, that’s it," Moya told MLB.com. "That’s what I’m going to try to focus at. Swing at strikes and let the pitches in the dirt alone, just think ‘up, up’ every time."

Parrish said Moya’s focus is exactly where it needs to be.

"He’s starting to show signs of making some improvement at the plate," Parrish said in a phone interview. "We’re concentrating on trying to get him to recognize pitches a little more consistently. He’s a big, strong guy and nobody wants to throw him a strike if they have don’t have to. He has to learn patience."

Parrish said that the 6-foot-7 Moya is working on laying off the low pitches.

"Because he’s so tall, when they call the lower strike, he wants to start swinging at it," Parrish said. "He ends up chasing because of that. It’s part of the discipline of the game."

Fields, 23, who lost part of his season at Erie after a pitch broke his hand last May, is not doing quite as well as Moya, but Parrish believes he has a shot to make the big league club.

"Center field is wide open in Detroit, they’re looking for a center fielder," Parrish said. "This is a huge opportunity to show what he’s capable of doing. He can play center field. He’s made some nice plays, running balls down and covering a lot of ground."

In nine games, Fields is batting .229 with one home run and three RBI. He has walked six times so his on-base percentage is .386.

"Offensively he’s hot and cold like everyone else," Parrish said. "One thing for him is just to stay healthy. He crashed into the wall trying to catch a fly ball and got bruised up so he’s missed a couple of days. He’ll be back in the lineup (Friday). If he stays healthy and puts a good stretch together, he’ll raise his stock."

Leyba, who turned 19 last month, is hitting just .185 with one RBI in eight games.

However, the switch-hitting Leyba hit well in his first year in the minors, batting .323 with two home runs and 24 RBI in 67 games.

"Good-looking young player," Parrish said. "Obviously he can swing the bat. It’s good for him to be here with some older, talented guys. He goes about his business."

Because Parrish has 17 position players, it’s been a challenge to play Leyba as much as he’d like.

"Defensively he’s done a solid job for us," Parrish said. "We have two priority guys that play shortstop that we have to play four out of every six games. He’ll play shortstop (Friday). He’s just here for the experience."

Ray, who turned 23 Oct. 1, will forever be known as the pitcher the Tigers got in the Doug Fister trade.

In nine games (six starts) with the Tigers, Ray was 1-4 with an 8.16 ERA. 

With the Desert Dogs, Ray was 1-1 with a 2.45 ERA and 1.36 WHIP in four starts. He walked six and struck out 13 in 11 innings.

Ray’s fall season is done as he’s getting married this month.

"He pitched well," Parrish said. "He’s been working on the slider. We’re trying to get him away from the curveball — although he’ll still throw the curveball — but we wanted him to focus on the slider.

"His fastball’s good, he locates well. He threw enough sliders that he feels confident with it, got a pretty good feel for it. It was productive for him. I was impressed with what he did and the pitching coaches here were impressed with what he did. Hopefully it’s a stepping stone for him getting to the next level."

Smith, who turned 25 Oct. 2, also appeared in 10 games with the Tigers this past season. He did not have a record, just a 5.40 ERA. The Tigers chose Smith in the 17th round in the 2011 draft out of USC.

This fall, Smith is 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA and 2.50 WHIP in four games. He has walked four and struck out three in four innings.

"His first outing was a nightmare," Parrish said. "Everyone has a bad day. He’s a sinker-slider guy. If the sinker flattens, he runs into problems. If he gets under it, it flattens out and if he leaves it up, he gets banged around.

"After his first outing, he’s pitched really well. Basically he’s trying to regain the confidence with his sinker, which he’s accomplished."

The Tigers selected Reininger, 21, in the eighth round of the 2013 draft out of Hill Junior College in Texas.

In 33 games with the West Michigan (low A) Whitecaps, Reininger was 4-4 with a 2.54 ERA and 1.04 WHIP. He had 17 walks and 58 strikeouts in 56 2/3 innings.

With the Desert Dogs, Reininger is 0-0 with a 7.88 ERA and 1.75 WHIP in seven games. He has four walks and seven strikeouts in eight innings.

"He’s a young guy and he’s handled himself extremely well," Parrish said. "His last outing he threw extremely well. He threw all of his pitches well, he was around the strike zone and was effective. 

"It’s a learning process for him. Sink or swim. He’s realizing that if you make a mistake, you want to make a mistake down in the zone. If you leave it up in the zone, it can go a long way. He’s got a promising future ahead of him."

The Tigers selected Mantiply in the 27th round of the 2013 draft out of Virginia Tech.

Mantiply, 23, spent time with both West Michigan and Erie this past season. In 38 games with the Whitecaps, he was 6-3 with a 2.40 ERA and 1.07 WHIP. He had 19 walks and 76 strikeouts in 71 1/3 innings.

With the Seawolves, Mantiply had a 3.38 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in eight games, walking three and striking out 10 in 10 2/3 innings.

Currently, Mantiply has a 2.25 ERA and 0.88 WHIP in six games with the Desert Dogs. He has walked two and struck out seven in eight innings.

"He’s pitched very well," Parrish said. "His first outing, maybe it was nerves, he wasn’t locating like he’s capable of. He’s not a 97-98 guy, he throws in the low 90s. He’s got a good change-up, good breaking pitches. His strength is his command. 

"He pitched for me in Erie. I can see he’s improved down here. He’s got a pretty good idea what he wants to do and is good at executing."

Parrish said he and Moya were looking forward to Saturday’s All-Star Game.

"It should be fun," Parrish said. "It’s always nice to be part of an All-Star extravaganza. It’s at the Salt River Fields, one of the premier parks. All the spring training complexes are phenomenal but this is the cream of the crop. 

"They had a hitting contest before the season and it was a big to-do. I’m sure the All-Star Game will be done the same way."