Looking at new Pirate third baseman Colin Moran

(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

New Pirate third baseman Colin Moran just may prove to be the gem of the team’s Gerrit Cole trade

With the sixth pick in the 2013 June Amateur Draft, the Miami Marlins selected slugging third baseman Colin Moran out of the University of North Carolina. In a dumb move, the Fish then traded Moran to the Houston Astros for pitcher Jared Cosart and a pair of minor leaguers.

Colin Moran then worked his way through the Astros’ farm system becoming one of the top third base prospects in baseball. The left-handed hitting Moran made his Major League debut for the Astros in 2016 and garnered another call-up in 2017.

It is easy to see why the Pittsburgh Pirates like Moran so much. Throughout the minor leagues his power has been lauded over. Moran also possesses strong on-base skills and appears to be turning the corner as a hitter.

His 2017 call-up was cut short due to facial fractures and a concussion costing him 65 days between July 23 and late September. In 12 plate appearances before his injury Moran hit a home run, a triple, and he drew a walk.

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Prior to his call-up, Moran was raking at Triple-A. The 25-year-old third baseman owned a .373 on-base percentage, .235 ISO, .534 slugging percentage, .390 wOBA, and a 133 wRC+ at Triple-A in 2017. He also had a strong 31:55 walk-to-strikeout ratio.

Throughout his minor league career Moran has always had the ability to get on base. His lifetime on-base percentage in the minor leagues in .353 and his walk rate is 9.9 percent. However, he has been plagued by the strikeout owning a 20.5 percent strikeout rate in the minor leagues. That said, his strikeout rate did drop to 16.3 percent at Triple-A in 2017.

As was said above, during the 2017 season Moran seemed to turn the corner as a hitter. He had always had the ability to hit for power, but he began to do so with consistency in 2017. Moran posted a career high 26.0 percent line drive rate at Triple-A in 2017, while his groundball rate was a career low 33.7 percent. He also benefitted from a 43.8 percent pull rate and this is something that should play well with the short porch in right field at PNC Park.

As this FanGraphs article dissects further, Moran spent last off-season tweaking his swing. These changes gave Moran’s swing more uppercut, made it quicker through the zone, and created more lift. As a result, his launch angle improved and his power became consistent. The changes Moran has made to his swing have also eliminated a hitch he once had that undoubtedly played a role in his strikeout issues.

You can see his new and improved swing in the video below.

If Colin Moran can put it all together with his new swing he has the ability to be a middle of the lineup slugger for the Pirates. Moran has good plate patience, has cut down on his strikeouts, and has serious power potential.

The biggest question mark with Moran may prove to be his defense. While his range at third base is lacking, he does a more than adequate job of making the play when he gets to the ball. As long as Moran can be an average defensive third baseman then his bat should be enough to turn him into an above league average player at the hot corner.

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Colin Moran comes with five years of team control. Combine his years of control with him being the centerpiece of the Gerrit Cole trade and it is safe to say the Pirates view him as their third baseman of the future. Moran has the tools needed to be an above average third baseman at the Major League level, it is now up to him to make that happen.