For two weeks leading up to the day of the draft, the Astros front office will lock itself away in a room and completely dissect the 2013 MLB draft class. Area scouts will chime in on players, crosscheckers will provide their notes and Houston's amateur scouting director Mike Elias will put together his first draft board.
Part of that process involves championing certain players. If a scout or a decision scientist likes a particular player, they have to make their case for him to the group. They have to go further than just a scouting report and sell everyone else on him.
With the draft careening towards us this week, we're adding a new feature. Take the top five players Houston is considering and make an argument that they should be the top pick. It's more than a profile; it's pounding on the table, saying, "This is our guy."
First up is North Carolina third baseman Colin Moran, who has gained some momentum over the past few weeks in mock drafts, but has not really impressed anyone with his tools. So, why should Houston consider him?
Let's take a step back from the name. Let's describe a player and see if he sounds like a good fit at the top of the draft. This player is the best pure hitter in this draft class, certainly the best pure college hitter. He's got emerging power that's likely to see him hit aroudn 25 home runs per year. He's got great plate discipline, which will lead to both a high average and a high on-base percentage when he finally makes it to the majors.
His defense needs some small tweaks with his footwork, but his arm and hands work great. If he can fix that, he can be an average defender at third who provides some real offensive fireworks there.
Who am I describing? It's not Moran. It's both Kevin Youkilis and Evan Longoria. Both have the star power that Moran's detractors say he is missing. If you're skeptical about the comparison, thank CRPerry for digging up this factoid: Longoria and Moran's isolated power averages in college were nearly identical at .190.
Our draft crew don't like Moran, because the tools don't impress. But, if he's got the arm for third base and the hands to make good plays, put him in the system with Morgan Ensberg for a couple of years and see if he can get that fixed. If so, he sticks at third and looks more like Longoria there. If not, he bounces between third, first and the designated hitter spots like Youkilis.
What Moran lacks in tools, he makes up for in skills. He has a phenomenal bat, hitting for a .457 weighted On-Base Average even with these BBCOR bats that cut down on power so much. He walked an astounding 57 times in 248 at-bats this season while striking out just 21 times. Those are the kinds of things that can carry over to the pros easily and will make him a very good player pretty quickly.
That's also while playing for the Tarheels, one of the favorites to go to Omaha for the College World Series. He was the Baseball America and Perfect Game Freshman of the Year in 2011 while also making first team All-America for multiple publications. So, he's been raking for quite a long time and is not just a one-year wonder. Oh, and he was named the second-best prospect in the Cape Cod league last summer.
He is most assuredly not a reach at the top of this draft.
The last part of the argument for Moran is his age. He's one of the youngest players in this college class. He won't turn 21 until October 1, which makes him a little over a year younger than Mark Appel, who will turn 22 on July 15. Does that matter? Some research indicates that the age of a prospect definitely has an impact on how productive they will be compared to their peers, because the player is having to compete at a high level at a younger age.
Don't despair if Moran is the No. 1 pick in this draft. He's going to be a star player in the major leagues. He may not be the star you were hoping for, but on a team in desperate need of well-rounded bats, Moran would make a huge impact.
That's why the Astros should take him with the top overall pick on Thursday.