After coming over to the Pittsburgh Pirates as part of the Gerrit Cole trade, here is what third baseman Colin Moran has to offer his new club
The Pittsburgh Pirates have consummated weeks of trade rumors, and yesterday traded Gerrit Cole to the Houston Astros for a four-player package, including today’s subject in Colin Moran.
Moran is a 25 year-old left handed hitting third baseman who can play at first base and left field as well. A first-round pick (sixth overall) of the Miami Marlins in 2013, Moran made his MLB debut in 2016 with 25 plate appearances, following that up with a 12 PA cup of coffee in 2017.
Before we dive into what the Pirates can expect from him, let’s familiarize ourselves with his minors performance thus far, with his 27 MLB PAs mixed in:
table courtesy of Baseball Reference
In looking at Moran’s progression through the minor leagues, one’s eyes are drawn to the home run spike he enjoyed in 2017 — we’ll get to that in a moment — but many might be more excited from his drop in strikeout rate. In what amounts to a full season at Triple-A in 2016, Moran struck out 24.2 percent of the time, but dropped that rate to 16.9 percent in 2017. That’s a fantastic adjustment, and one that gets amplified when put up alongside his power tinkering as well.
Flip the switch for more power
Moran had a 45-rated power tool by MLB Pipeline, but the Pittsburgh Pirates are likely enamored with the adjustments that Moran made in between the 2016-2017 seasons that resulted in more consistent pop. Tapping into the launch angle craze while simultaneously focusing on pulling the ball more (Moran is a career 49 percent pull hitter, well above a generally accepted Major League rate of 40 percent) showed much better results.
And it is exactly that reason that his power may play at PNC Park. 320 feet is all that stands between a left-handed pull hitter like Moran and 20+ dingers. Raw power can often be translated into game power with the right adjustment plus the right environment. The Pittsburgh Pirates are banking on the variables being just right for Moran to solve the team’s equation for more power. The club swatted just 151 home runs last year — second-worst in the majors — and Moran’s presence as a left-handed power bat in the middle third of the lineup is more than welcomed. Presumably set to bat alongside or near Josh Bell on the lineup, Moran’s bat would keep the pressure up on starting pitchers, especially if Bell continues to improve from the right-side of the plate.
He will have to prove that the adjustments made in 2017 are lasting, and that his bat can play for more than just a handful of MLB plate appearances. If both prove true, Moran’s presence at the plate can have a trans-formative effect on the Pittsburgh Pirates’ everyday lineup.
Addressing a need on the field
If any Pittsburgh Pirates fans were clinging to hope that Jung Ho Kang would make his way back to the states, the move to acquire Moran should inform that the organization is not hopeful, to put it kindly.
Of course, the club would have had to chart a post-Kang course regardless. Nevertheless, Moran fills an obvious need at third base for the Pirates, who relied on David Freese for a full-time role last season. Moran can make all the throws needed with a 55-rated arm, but reports state that he lacks range at the hot corner. Regardless, the club will certainly live with an “average” defender at third if he provides the potential pop that Moran could provide.
The Pittsburgh Pirates may also reap benefits from Moran’s presence in that Freese could thrive in a part-time role. His versatility in being able to play left-field could allow the club to build in more rest days for Andrew McCutchen without losing pop in the lineup.
Though some fans may have felt lukewarm towards Moran’s inclusion in the Cole trade at first, his power potential and ability to plug a huge hole in the Pirates’ lineup may change their minds sooner rather than later.
Photo credit – Fresno Grizzlies