Tigers taking a serious look at Steven Moya

Steven Moya came a homer away from hitting for the cycle.

David Goldman/AP

JUPITER, Fla. — After totaling 12 runs in five previous Grapefruit League games, the Detroit Tigers exploded for a 17-5 win Monday against the defending National League champion St. Louis Cardinals.

After hitting three homers in 390 at-bats over 12 games, Detroit equaled that total with a pair by two-time defending American League MVP Miguel Cabrera and one by third baseman Nick Castellanos. They each hit a bomb to straight-away center, and Cabrera got his first homer of the spring by taking starter Shelby Miller to right field.

Infielder Danny Worth, who was batting only .167, came alive with a pair of RBI-doubles and outfielder Rajai Davis (three hits, two runs and two RBIs) looked good in the leadoff spot. Cabrera and Castellanos both ended up with three hits, four RBIs and two runs.

And while all of those efforts were significant, the contributions of 23-year-old right fielder Steven Moya might have done the most to grab attention.

Moya came a homer away from hitting for the cycle, and is a rising star who could land in Detroit sooner than expected. With left-handed hitting Andy Dirks out until mid-June after Monday’s back surgery, the Tigers very likely will be adding an outfielder. And while it’s much more likely to be Ezequiel Carrera or a late player pick up, don’t discount Moya. The Tigers are taking a serious look at the left-handed slugger.

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And this much is certain: You will see him in Detroit sooner rather than later.

"You never know when you will get to the big leagues," said Moya, who was born in Puerto Rico but raised in the Dominican Republic. "You don’t know where you will start the season (in the minors) or if you will start it in the big leagues."

Moya played last season at Class A Lakeland, where he batted.255 with 19 doubles, five triples, 12 homers and 55 RBIs in 365 at-bats. The Florida State League that Lakeland plays in is so difficult for maturing players to hit home runs in that Cabrera hit only nine in 489 at-bats in that league for Jupiter as a Marlins prospect. Though, Cabrera did hit an amazing 43 doubles that year.

Still, jumping to the Tigers in April would appear to be rushing Moya. And he very likely will start at Double-A Erie.

But he’s a five-tool player who could soon make Tigers fans forget about trading away a young corner outfielder who fit that same description named Avisail Garcia. Moya has to stay healthy first. He missed most of 2012 with Tommy John surgery, and also has been sidelined with a sprained left shoulder and a right hamstring strain.

"Moya hasn’t put together a full season yet with his injuries," said Tigers assistant general manager Al Avila. "And he’s really the complete player. He has a plus-plus arm. And you do not realize that he’s really fast, but he gets there quick with those long strides. He has power to all fields, and that’s a rare commodity.

"He makes the field look small."

Moya, at 6-foot-6 and 229 pounds, is built like a power forward. He has Dave Winfield or Tony Clark size.

He can do unusual things.

Moya pulled a liner down the line in right that he would’ve been a double for most. But it was an easy triple despite the fact that he awkwardly cut the turn at second base.

And while he generally swings from his heels (Moya struck out swinging in his other three at-bats), he also went to the opposite field for a single to the gap and a double through the hole.

In a previous game, Moya threw out a base-runner with a great throw but also missed the cutoff man badly on another play. He struck out 106 times in 365 at-bats last year, and a major leaguer is going to have to hit around 40 homers with that ratio to stay around. But he might.

"He’s swung the bat well from Day 1," said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus. "And he hasn’t let up at all."

Ausmus hasn’t mentioned the strikeouts being a problem or talked about cutting down on his long swing.

"He has a very good swing and extreme power," Ausmus said of Moya. "It’s not as long as Tony Clark’s, and you can make an argument that Ken Griffey Jr.’s swing was long."

Moya said, "I just keep swinging, and staying healthy is my focus — so I can have a full season. I’ve been feeling good now.

"Today, it was really, really fun."

"That meant something to me — especially with St. Louis being my hometown," Scherzer said. "For them to applaud for me was a huge sign of respect."