Starting with Steven Moya, who has accumulated a .321/.362/.585 triple slash line; good for a .947 OPS. He’s continuing to drive the ball, with seven extra-base hits in 13 games, he’s still striking out a lot (16 K’s in 53 at-bats), and he’s also showing off some speed, having swiped four bases. He’s also taken four walks, an improvement in his walk rate. For a player that is trying to learn how to hit more advanced pitching and improve his approach, are there signs that’s what’s happening?
Yes and no.
Moya has walked four times, which in 58 plate appearances is good for a nearly 7% walk rate. That’s an obvious improvement over his career rate, which has hovered around 4%, including being at 4.5% this year in Erie. But on such a small sample size, it’s hard to judge.
When we look at the pitch data, there are clearly times when Moya is trying to show more patience at the plate and a willingness to take a pitch. In his 58 PA’s, he’s averaging over 3.6 pitches per plate appearance, a middle-of-the-road number, that isn’t necessarily indicative of someone constantly swinging away. There is some truth to that. In 211 pitches seen, 70 have gone for balls. In 20 instances, he took a first pitch ball, and in another 10 appearances, he took a called first strike. So, in more than half the times he has stepped to the plate this fall, he’s allowed the first pitch to go by.
"Usually, when a player gets ahead in the count, it improves their ability to hit for power and for average. That isn’t the case for Moya though."
On the other hand, there is still plenty of swing and miss in his game. In fact, he’s swung and missed 44 times among the pitches he’s seen, or over 20% of the time, he’s taking a cut and not making any contact. That’s in addition to 40 foul balls, more swings where he wasn’t able to do anything with a pitch.
However, what remains one of the more interesting facets of Moya’s game is his tendency to break the mold. Usually, when a player gets ahead in the count, it improves their ability to hit for power and for average. That isn’t the case for Moya though. Among all of his hits, he’s totaled 31 bases. Just seven of those have come from the 1/3 of appearances in which he got ahead 1-0. The rest of his power has come when he’s been aggressive early.
Overall, it’s safe to say there are some minor gains in the approach Moya is taking at the plate. He appears to be making a concerted effort at times to take a pitch, especially the first pitch. But, there’s still plenty of aggressiveness in his game, and along with that comes plenty of swing and miss. And, in his case anyway, that’s being rewarded when he connects.
Ray has made three starts so far for Glendale in the AFL, allowing one run in nine total innings of work. He’s also struck out 12 and walked four, while giving up just five hits for a very impressive stat line.
Ray’s stat line however has a number of impressive components to it. For starters, he’s gotten 12 strikeouts in nine innings, and done so against some impressive competition. His strikeout numbers include striking out arguably baseball’s top prospect, Minnesota Twins outfielder Byron Buxton.
Ray has also had plenty of swing and miss in his game, with 18 swinging strikes in 138 pitches thrown; good for a 13% swinging strike ratio. MLB pitchers usually average around 10%, while Ray was averaging 7% in his handful of big league appearances. The quality of opposition is obviously different in the AFL compared to MLB, but he’s basically doubled his swinging strike rate.
What’s possibly more noteworthy is that the contact he is allowing is relatively weak. While he’s given up five hits, all five have been singles – not a single extra base hit allowed. In addition, he’s keeping the ball on the ground, with 8 groundouts in 34 plate appearances.
With just the gameday metrics in most games (including all the games Ray has pitched so far), we haven’t had the added benefit of knowing how much Ray is working his slider into the mix, as opposed to the change-up, that had been his most effective off-speed pitch at the big league level this season. But assuming he is using it, which was a primary reason why he was sent to the AFL, it’s an overall encouraging first few weeks for Ray in Arizona.