Moya slated for Triple-A, hopes to make Tigers’ decision tough

Steven Moya got a front-row seat to observe two masters of the strike zone, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, when he was called up in September.

Rick Osentoski

DETROIT — The way the Tigers see it, it’s not Steven Moya’s time right now, but it’s coming.

Moya, 23, is a tantalizing physical specimen.

Standing 6-foot-7, 230 pounds, Moya is an imposing left-handed presence at the plate.

Eastern League pitchers found that to be the case as Moya batted .271 with 33 doubles, three triples, 35 home runs and 105 RBI in 133 games with the Double-A Erie SeaWolves.

For his efforts, Moya was named Eastern League MVP and the Tigers Minor League Player of the Year.

Moya also made the Eastern League All-Star Game and earned the MVP award for hitting the game-winning grand slam.

The Tigers sent Moya to the Arizona Fall League, where he played for his Erie manager, Lance Parrish, on the Glendale Desert Dogs.

Moya batted .289 with five home runs and 19 RBI in 23 games, earning a spot in the Fall Stars Game and on the AFL All-Prospect Team.

So it was no surprise to hear what Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said about Moya during TigerFest.

"Moya is one of those guys we love," Dombrowski said. "We don’t have to rush him. But when he’s ready, he’s going to play because this guy has a chance to be a superstar. He really can hit, hit with power, left-handed power."

So with that kind of success, one might think Moya would be in the mix for an outfield spot with the Tigers this spring. 

But the Tigers currently have different plans for Moya.

"I think our outfield right now is pretty well set," Tigers assistant general manager Al Avila said. 

Avila said the Tigers traded Rick Porcello to the Boston Red Sox for Yoenis Cespedes, who will play left field. Anthony Gose and Rajai Davis will patrol Comerica Park’s vast center field expanse and J.D. Martinez is set to take over in right field for Torii Hunter.

Tyler Collins, who made the team out of spring training last year, is in the mix as a reserve outfielder.

"With a guy like Moya, you don’t want to bring him in and have him on the bench and play him every once in a while," Avila said. "You want him to be playing every single day, continuing to get that strike zone down. When he’s ready, believe me, he’ll come up and he’ll be an everyday player at that point. 

"But right now, the way the team is set up, the best thing for him, and really, I think we made the right decision in having him go to Triple-A and acquiring Yoenis Cespedes, now you’ve got a superstar in left field, you’ve got a superstar waiting in the wings right there."

As Avila said, the thing Moya has to work on is learning the strike zone and cutting down on strikeouts.

Moya had 161 strikeouts and 23 walks in 133 games at Erie and 29 strikeouts and six walks in 23 games in the Arizona Fall League.

"The whole fall league was really good because it gave me some more at-bats so I can kind of improve a little bit more, learn a little bit more about my swing, about myself, about how to control the strike zone, home plate," Moya said. "It was a great experience going to the All-Star (game), too. I spent a lot of time with really good players, playing with a lot of talented players. That was really, really exciting and good for me."

Another thing that was good for Moya was when the Tigers made him one of their September call-ups.

Moya got a front-row seat to observe two masters of the strike zone, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez.

"Being around Miggy and being around Martinez, it was a great help," Moya said. "I learned a lot about them, how they play, how they relax during the game, how they concentrate, too, and focus during the game. I tried to take advantage of it and I think it will help me a lot for this upcoming season."

Although Cabrera was hobbled with a foot injury that required surgery after the season, he earned AL Player of the Month honors in September for batting .379 with eight home runs and 18 RBI. Cabrera had five walks and 23 strikeouts in 26 games.

Martinez was one of the toughest players to strike out in all of baseball, leading the American League with one strikeout every 15.26 plate appearances.

Martinez, second to Mike Trout in AL MVP voting, hit .335 with 32 home runs and 103 RBI. Martinez had 70 walks and just 42 strikeouts in 151 games.

"I’ve never seen something like that," Moya said. "I was amazed how he performed at the plate, how he played the game. It’s a really, really good model for me. The discipline, the focus he puts in the game, that really caught my attention. It’s something that I want to do, too, because he’s a really good example. I’m going to try to follow his steps."

Although Moya has not played at Triple-A yet, he isn’t resigning himself to the minors just yet.

"They haven’t told me anything," Moya said. "But my job right here is make them have a really tough time making decisions. It’s what I’m going to do."