A few weeks ago, I had a piece that discussed Luis Severino and the wide range of opinions on what kind of pitcher he would be at the major-league level. I enjoyed writing it—and you seemed to enjoy reading it—so I thought I’d do a few more, if that’s okay with you guys.
Next up: Astros third baseman Colin Moran. While I didn’t get quite the wide range of opinions with Moran that I did with Severino, he was one of the more “controversial” position prospects I spoke with scouts about this spring. It’s easy to understand why so many are torn about his future.
Moran’s calling card when he was selected with the sixth overall selection of the 2013 draft was the hit tool, as I—and many I spoke with—believed it was the most advanced hit tool in the entire class. Fast forward 18 months, and Moran’s ability to hit for average is much more in question, though it’s still his most advanced tool.
High scout: “I really like [Moran’s] swing. He has excellent balance, and outside of some early fidgeting there isn’t much wasted movement. He recognizes pitches well, as it seems all North Carolina hitters do, and he so rarely gets himself out by swinging at pitches outside of the zone. I don’t see a future batting champion, but I think [the hit tool] is easily plus.”
Low scout: “There’s a lot to like, but I do have a couple things I worry about. I’ve seen him bail out a few times against left-handed pitching, and the stats sort of back up that he doesn’t see the ball against left-handers. I also think he needs to work on his assertiveness; there’s a few too many times where I’ve seen him look passive against first-pitch fastballs. I’d put his hit tool at 55, but that’s sort of disappointing because a lot of folks had it at plus-plus.”
If I’m picking sides—and I am—I have to go with the high scout here. No, I don’t think he’s going to crush left-handed pitching, but we’ve seen guys who struggle against left-handers early in their career get the hang of it later on. I’d be surprised if Moran isn’t a guy who’ll someday hit in the .280-.300 range as a regular.
Moran has slugged just over .408 in his time as a professional, which is less than ideal from a corner infielder. Still, he showed power potential while at UNC, and the high scout wasn’t ready to concede that it won’t be a part of his game.
HS: “I just think he needs to be more aggressive early in counts. There’s plenty of strength there, and his swing does have some loft to it. It’s a difficult balance, but I think if he starts taking advantage of some pitches early in the count 15- to 20-homer seasons are not out of the question.”
LS: “I mean, he’s not Chone Figgins, but if you’re expecting more than a dozen or so homers I think you’re going to come away disappointed. The swing he shows you in BP gives you an idea that he has plus raw power, but that’s not the same swing you see in-game, not very often anyway. I’d [grade his power as] a 50, maybe even 45.”
On this one, I lean toward the low scout’s findings, but I understand the optimism from the high scout. Having raw power is nice, but it means very little if you change your swing when the actual at-bats are happening. The Astros will likely work with him to untap that pop, but there’s work to be done.
Both scouts agreed that Moran is not very fast, but not Molina slow. I agree with the scouts that Moran is not very fast, but not Molina slow.
If you think the scouts disagreed on Moran’s power and hit tools, it’s nothing compared to what they expect—or don’t expect—from him defensively.
HS: I think he can stick [at third base]. The footwork is solid, the arm is plus and he rarely makes mental errors out there. At some point he might have to move across the diamond, but for now I think he’s a solid-average third baseman.”
LS: “I would be very surprised if he was a third baseman in the long term. The arm’s fine and he makes the plays that are hit at him, which is nice. Because of his lack of athleticism, though, if you expect him to make anything but the routine play you’re asking too much. The Astros will give Moran every chance to play third base because they have Singleton signed long term, but you better have a darned good shortstop next to him, because he just doesn’t have the range to be good there.”
If it’s possible, I think both scouts are wrong on Moran’s defense, as I think the high scout is too high and the low scouts far too low. I see a 45 defender; one who isn’t going to kill you with the glove, but with range that’s problematic for him long term.
HS: A first-division third baseman, one who hits .300, hits 18 to 20 homers and knocks in 80 runs while playing good defense is his ceiling, and his floor is knocking 30 points off the average and five homers.
LS: I think Moran’s ceiling is a guy who hits for average and someone figures out how to bring out the power with fringe-average defense, and his floor is bench bat who subs at first and third base.
Me: I think the high scout is too optimistic on his ceiling, and the low scout too pessimistic on his floor. If you take the low scout’s ceiling and the high scout’s floor, I think you get a more accurate representation on what kind of player Moran is. That’s a nice player, but not what you expect from a player who went with the sixth overall pick. Thankfully for the Astros, and perhaps for Moran too, that's not where his current employer got him.