Some prospects inspire a strong consensus among scouts. The tools and projection are easy to see; we know a player is going to be good, so it’s only a matter of how good. With other prospects, however, there can be a much wider range of opinions. Two scouts can see the same thing from the same player and come up with two totally different sets of opinions. It happens in the seats behind the plate, in meeting rooms before the draft, and in many of the discussions behind the scenes here at BP. To me, this is one of the best parts about scouting. Sometimes there are no right or wrong answers, or at least not ones we’ll know for a few years.
In this instance, two of our evaluators, Tucker Blair and Mark Anderson, had very different opinions of Tigers outfield prospect and recent September call-up Steven Moya, a behemoth with massive raw power and an extremely aggressive approach that leads to big strikeout totals. Those are the facts, but the level of concern over how that will affect his future differs between our two evaluators.
In order to dig deeper into the disagreement, I’ve allowed them to present their arguments while I moderated the discussion. –Jeff Moore
Tucker Blair: Moya is a monster. His physical demeanor is rather terrifying, as he towers over the other players. With this gigantic frame comes some of the best raw power in the minors. My issue is with the hit tool. With the large frame, Moya has many moving parts and often struggles to replicate his swing. I am pessimistic about his chances to perform at the highest level, simply because the hit tool will downplay his ability to maximize the plus-plus raw. I realistically see Moya as a player who will become stuck in the upper minors rather than becoming an impact bat.
Mark Anderson: I see the good and the bad in Moya. I can see the player who gets role 4 grades. I can see the player some believe will be an impact big-league player. I have exposure to all sides of Steven Moya, dating back to his arrival in the United States at just 18. The growth in Moya's frame and game over the past five years has been nothing short of incredible. When you consider that five years ago he was a gangly, unathletic teenager with a hit tool that the bottom of the 20-80 scouting scale laughed at, you can begin to see he has come a long way. Today, he still has holes in his game. He always will. But with that fact in mind, it is important to consider that even with those holes, he has the carrying tool—ridiculous raw power—that can lead to major-league success in spite of other issues. Moya's surprising athleticism, phenomenally strong work ethic, and top-of-the-scale raw are going to make him a contributing major-league player. Even with my experience scouting Moya, I remain unwilling to suggest he will be an impact player, but he will play every day and slug at a high level.
Jeff Moore: Tucker, Mark pointed out that Moya has made great strides as a professional and his breakout year in 2014 supports that statement. What is it about Moya that makes you believe he won't continue to make more adjustments and get his hit tool up to where his power can play to the level of, say, a second-division regular?
TB: Once a guy reaches the Double-A level, I begin to look at the player a little differently. When a prospect is in A-Ball, I tend to be more lenient on the deficiencies of a tool. Once a player reaches Double-A, I begin to seriously evaluate whether that tool is going to truly play at the highest level. One specific reason behind this is the level of competition. At Double-A, you begin to see the major-league-caliber arms. Even better, Double-A has a wealth of clear org arms who will never make the majors. I think Double-A is an easier place to evaluate talent than the lower levels because of this clear variation of talent levels within each series and even games.
For Moya, I really question his ability to consistently make contact against arms that I classify as major-league talent. This largely comes from so many moving parts within his swing. In my viewings of Moya this season, and the reports that have been provided to me, I have deep concerns about his ability to maneuver the barrel through the zone and still stay balanced with his lower half. I found that he was able to consistently replicate his path through the zone when he was taking batting practice, but once the game started he would have issues. The swing just generates too much noise and the hands are all over the place. He has extremely long limbs and it is certainly clear that he is still learning how to control them, but he is a guy in Double-A and that really concerns me. His bottom half was routinely unbalanced when I saw him. At times, he displayed a full load that also hindered his ability to torque and get the bat path around quick enough. Other times, he had zero load and it was just a wrist flick with the bat that generated his swing. I needed to see more consistency from him, and I just never did. I think it is important to be cognizant that I did see Moya in the beginning of the season, a month or two before Mark did. Could he have improved? Yes, it is possible. However, from my initial look, I struggled to envision a scenario where Moya could identify major-league spin and still keep a consistent swing at the plate
JM: Mark, Moya's power production has obviously made great strides this season, but doesn't such an extreme strikeout-to-walk ratio make you worry that he will be exploited against better pitching? The historical track record for players with that lopsided sort of ratio isn't good.
MA: It's impossible to say such an extreme strikeout-to-walk ratio isn't alarming. Seeing something like that has to raise an eyebrow, but I've seen so much of Moya over the past few years that I truly believe he can overcome the issue to play a role in a big-league lineup. While hard to believe, Moya has made ridiculous progress in his ability to work counts and make more consistent contact. That doesn't mean he's good at it, but he's made strides, and those strides have come within this season as well. Since the outset of the season, when a Double-A assignment was at a minimum aggressive, Moya has gone from a complete hacker to a player who develops a plan and works to try and execute. He does well executing against a starting pitcher who he has prepared for and struggles more as he is forced to face variables like unknown relievers later in games. A good player has to make these adjustments, but just the fact that he's taken the step to show a plan and begin executing it is a very positive move.
My projection of Moya as a solid everyday player incorporates my concerns over his aggressive approach and the ugly ratio. I see it, and I'm willing to acknowledge that it can hold him back. I project him as a modest-average, low-OBP player who does just enough for his fantastic raw power to play in games. The way in which he executes it won't always be pretty and he will be prone to some slumps, but Moya is going to be a power hitter at the highest level, approach be damned.
As moderator, and more importantly as someone who didn’t get to see Moya in person this year, I won’t pick a side in this debate. There’s no way to know how Moya is going to turn out.
Tucker points out the role that the Double-A level plays in player development as the first real test, and while he’s correct that the better level of competition exposed the holes in his swing (161 strikeouts), it was also the setting of his breakout power season (35 home runs). Can we really ignore the good but not the bad?
Mark believes that Moya will be able to find some level of major-league success despite a walk rate around 4 percent. Only one qualifying player in the majors had a BB/K ratio worse than Moya’s 0.14 on the season (Chris Johnson), but few players have the raw power of Moya. Can he get enough of his power to translate to ignore the extreme swing-and-miss in his game?
These are the questions that we can’t definitively answer. Moya is an extreme player with extreme skills, both good and bad, and thus will be subject to extreme opinions from scouts. Now that he’s in the majors, we can begin to get answers to some answers to just how those skills will play out at the major-league level.
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