Moya moves over to left with Mud Hens

With J.D. Martinez in right, top prospect swaps corners

Moya moves over to left with Mud Hens

DETROIT -- Days before the Tigers will expand their roster, Triple-A Toledo outfielder Steven Moya made a notable position move.

On Wednesday, Moya, the organization's top prospect, per MLBPipeline.com, earned his first start in left field since 2011 after playing 97 games in right field with the Mud Hens this season.

Worth reading into?

"Yeah, you probably should," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said Thursday morning.

Even if Moya isn't called up when rosters expand from 25 to 40 on Sept. 1, the shift could hint at Detroit's plans for the future. J.D. Martinez has solidified his role as an everyday right fielder with a monster year at the plate -- a .291 average with 34 home runs entering Thursday's finale against the Angels -- to complement improved defense, and he's under team control through 2017.

The Tigers also dealt left fielder Yoenis Cespedes at the non-waiver Trade Deadline and have since plugged the defensive void primarily with Tyler Collins, whom Ausmus said has the opportunity to prove himself as a full-time corner outfielder.

If Moya, an average defender with a powerful bat, is called up, it could ignite a competition lasting into Spring Training to determine Detroit's Opening Day left fielder.

Moya, who signed with Detroit as a non-drafted free agent in 2008, is one of three players on the club's 40-man roster who hasn't received Major League action this season. The 6-foot-7 outfielder has struggled at the plate, slashing .239/.283/.422 in 114 games with the Mud Hens, and strikeouts (146 over 448 plate appearances) remain an issue.

According to Ausmus, the switch from right field to left isn't as simple as it might seem.

"There's probably a little bit more curve on the ball off left-handed bats going into left field than there is from right-handed bats going into right field," he said. "Right-handed fly balls tend to stay a little bit straighter.

"Overall, right field [at Comerica Park] is probably a little easier, just because there's less acreage."

A September callup last fall, Moya made his Major League debut Sept. 1 and went 3-for-8 with two runs scored over eight games with the Tigers.

Alejandro Zúñiga is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.