Among the seven heading to Arizona, both Moya and Travis were a part of TigsTown’s 2014 Midseason Top Ten, with Moya ranked fourth and Travis ninth. VerHagen, Smith and Fields were also ranked among the top 30 in the organization.
While at least a few are well regarded prospects, the common theme among the group is that almost every player lost a substantial portion of the season to injury, and with the Tigers shift in developmental philosophy (How the Tigers Plan to Help the Farm System), the rationale for sending players to the AFL could be more specifically related now to getting players the proper amount of work in a season.
Moya headlines the list as being the top ranked prospect heading to Arizona, in addition to turning in a record-setting season for the ‘Wolves and representing the Tigers in the Futures Game last month.
Moya’s accolades have been well earned this season, as he’s blasted 34 home runs and 32 doubles while posting an .855 OPS. The 34 home runs are tied for the SeaWolves franchise record, and he has 102 RBI’s, also currently tied for the franchise record with a long weekend of games to go. His 34 home runs don’t just lead the Eastern League, he’s running away with the crown in the EL, as the next closest challenger has 23 home runs, 11 behind Moya. He’s second in all of Minor League Baseball's league leaders, behind only Matt Olson of the Oakland Athletics in the California League.
While the power surge is a great step in his development of translating his impressive tools into production, Moya still has plenty of development left to do, continuing to improve his approach and plate discipline, and attempting to develop a bit more patience that would help improve a walk rate that sits under 4%.
Travis meanwhile hasn’t had quite the season that he had 2013 across the Tigers two A-ball affiliates, but is still posting good numbers, with an average of nearly .300 and an .813 OPS. Travis continues to prove doubters wrong that he wouldn’t be able to hit against more advanced pitching, and after losing more than a month of the season at the beginning of the year with a hamstring injury.
Fields inclusion with the club is a welcome sign after not participating in fall leagues the past couple years. Fields had what appeared to be a re-emerging year in 2013, hitting for a good average and some power in Erie, but got out of the gate slow in Toledo, and is hitting just .212 with limited power (.310 slugging percentage). Like Travis, Fields lost a good chunk of the season to injury, having broken his right hand in May when he was hit by a pitch on the hand.
VerHagen got the chance to make his big league debut this year, giving up three runs in five innings of work for the Tigers back in July. VerHagen had a 3.67 ERA for the Mud Hens through the first half of the season, but after pitching in Detroit, was optioned back to Toledo and quietly hit the disabled list with back soreness and hasn’t pitched since.
In addition to VerHagen, Tigers fans also got to see Smith pitch in Detroit this season, as he ascended from Erie to Detroit this year, posting a 5.40 ERA in ten appearances, with nine strikeouts and three walks. Smith shined for the ‘Wolves with a 1.53 ERA, but struggled upon being optioned to Toledo, where the Tigers need Smith to work on the finer points of pitching.
Among those that likely might not have been expected to be sent to Arizona, Reininger might have been the most surprising as he’s pitched in relief exclusively for the Low-A Whitecaps this season. He’s done well, with a 2.68 ERA in 31 appearances, but teams don’t usually challenge players from the Midwest League with an aggressive assignment like the AFL. However, as is the common theme, Reininger lost the first month of the season and didn’t debut for West Michigan until early May.
Finally, Mantiply was originally a teammate of Reininger’s, but got promoted to Erie in early August, and has found success there as well, posting a 2.25 ERA with seven strikeouts in eight innings of work since joining the ‘Wolves. The lefty has been a workhorse, logging nearly 80 innings this season as a multi-inning reliever.
The seven Tigers will play for the Glendale Desert Dogs, who will be managed by Erie Seawolves manager Lance Parrish. League play begins on October 7th.