The performance of the Tigers in the AFL obviously continues to revolve around two names; Steven Moya and Robbie Ray. Moya spent the entirety of the season hitting cleanup or batting fifth for the Glendale Desert Dogs. Moya’s fall looked much the same as his regular season did; a solid average with plenty of power to go with it. Moya finished with the highest slugging percentage on the club at .544, and tied for the team lead in home runs with five. His .871 OPS was good for sixth in the entire AFL.
Moya even showed a few hints of displaying improved patience at the plate, working six walks to 29 strikeouts in 90 at-bats. That wouldn’t be described as good, but after walking in only about 4% of his plate appearances while striking out 161 times for Erie, it is a sign of improvement. It remains to be seen however just how ready Moya is, and whether or not he could seriously compete for a big league job in spring training.
Moving on to Ray, who made four starts for Glendale before departing the league early to get married, he posted a 2.45 ERA over 11 innings of work, with 13 strikeouts and six walks. Ray’s first few outings were excellent, allowing just one run in nine innings of work, before getting hit around a bit in his final outing, where he allowed four hits and walked two in two innings.
Like Moya, Ray is being looked at as a potential big league contributor in 2015 after making a few cameos this past season, and could possibly compete for a spot in the starting rotation, in the event the Tigers don’t re-sign Max Scherzer or sign a replacement for him.
Beyond the top two, the Tigers also had infielder Domingo Leyba and outfielder Daniel Fields getting in work, along with relievers Joe Mantiply, Zac Reininger and Chad Smith. Many of them were getting in work, not necessarily because of their prospect status, but due to missed time this season, or a need for additional work to set them up for 2015.
In the case of Fields, he lost a good chunk of the 2014 season to a broken hand, which seemingly derailed his year and he slogged through a disappointing second half of the season once he was healthy. He hit .255 in the AFL, but had just one extra-base hit (a home run) in 47 at-bats. With the trade of Austin Jackson, playing time in Detroit was available in center field, but the Tigers acquired another left-handed hitting center fielder in Anthony Gose, likely limiting the current opportunity for Fields in Detroit. He’ll have to again try and revive his offensive game next year in hopes of getting a look in Detroit.
Leyba meanwhile got limited playing time and struggled at the plate, which was not completely unexpected given his youth and inexperience (19 years old, just 30 games of full-season ball). He hit just .171 without an extra base hit, but is still likely years away from being able to compete with the relative competition he was facing.
On the reliever side of things, Mantiply impressed quite a bit, after a strong 2014 season. In 11 games that spanned 14 innings, Mantiply struck out 15 while allowing just 12 hits and posting a 2.57 ERA. While not as publicized as the promotion of Buck Farmer, Mantiply also jumped from West Michigan to Erie late in the year, and could be a darkhorse for a job in the bullpen in 2014.
Finally, both Smith and Reininger had their share of struggles in limited appearances.
Smith posted a 9.00 ERA over four appearances, but almost all of that damage came in his first outing where he gave up five hits while recording just one out. Even in his final three more successful outings though, he still allowed an unearned run and walked more than he struck out. Smith got a look in Detroit and struggled, but unless the organization makes significant upgrades to the bullpen, he might have a shot to get another look.
Reininger did make 11 appearances, but posted an 8.25 ERA over that stretch. He posted a 1.92 WHIP with giving up 15 hits in 12 innings. Reininger had a solid year in West Michigan, and was sent to the AFL in part due to missing the first month of the year and looking to get some extra work in, but he struggled to compete with some of the talented hitters in Arizona.
To read more on how the Tigers looked in the Arizona Fall League, be sure to check out the Scouting MLN for all the details:
Scouting MLN: Moya, Ray in the AFL