By: Kurt Snyder
Baseball can be such a cruel sport for players trying so hard to make it to “the show.” You try valiantly to perfect your craft. You hope for that big break. You wonder when or if you will ever get an opportunity.
The life of a minor leaguer, especially at the AAA level, must be agonizing. But sometimes it’s agonizing for fans as well, especially when they hear about a highly-touted minor league prospect. They wonder when that player will get an opportunity and when they will be brought up to the big club.
But more times than not, the player finds out he’s just not there yet. Consistency in the minors gives them that chance. But try building on that in the majors when you just can’t find enough playing time to stay sharp or justify staying.
This is the plight of Stephen Moya. Tiger fans have been waiting for him to emerge. He is the one position player in the minors who seems to have the most upside, the most potential. He’s a left-handed bat with power. Someone sorely needed in a righty-heavy Tiger lineup. But Moya has struggled the last couple years with strikeouts and it has kept him from advancing.
Moya was brought up earlier in the month, sporting a brand new batting stance and a more aggressive look at the plate. And lo and behold, he looked good. He began to show the same promise in Detroit he had displayed in Toledo so far this season. He appears to be turning the corner. But Stephen has a big problem. His name is Justin Upton.
Upton was thought to be the piece of the puzzle needed to fill the void left by the departure of Yoenis Cespedes. But the whole transaction has left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. Ironically, as Moya struggled with strikeouts last season, the one guy now standing in his path between playing in Detroit versus playing in Toledo, is striking out at an alarming rate.
Justin Upton is in a position to enter June baseball with 3 home runs and 11 RBI’s. And how many strikeouts, 71? Yeah, 71 strikeouts in just over 180 at bats heading into play Tuesday night! 71!
But regardless of how bad it has gotten, Upton remains Moya’s roadblock. What choice do the Tigers have? They have made their bed. They have invested big in Justin Upton. And I can’t imagine what Moya must think. It’s the cruel reality for a minor league player waiting for a chance. They constantly walk that fine line only to find themselves on the wrong side of the chalk over and over again.
But when you are sent home in favor of someone who can’t find a baseball in a bag full of … well, baseballs, it must be very disconcerting. Moya is at the point where his chances to play in Detroit are fleeting. There is too much money tied up in the corner outfield positions.
But I can’t spend the entire time here blowing smoke up Stephen’s ‘you know what.’ He needed to produce long before the Tigers even considered acquiring Justin Upton. It was his lack of consistent production in the minors that failed to instill confidence in him. The Tigers just did not consider him to be a candidate to properly grab hold of an everyday outfield spot. The strikeouts were just too debilitating.
But the Tigers invested big in a player who has given them little. The strikeouts have been debilitating. The guy we thought could replace Cespedes, strikes out at least once a night, if not twice and has provided next-to-no production over the course of the first 2 months. Upton has been shockingly bad.
This is the guy keeping Stephen Moya from playing, not because he’s playing well, but because he makes so much money. There’s no room at the inn. There is no real future for Moya in Detroit.