The Astros have gotten an 87 wRC+ out of their third baseman in 2016 so far, better than only six of the other 30 Major League clubs. Though Luis Valbuena has had a nice run over the last week, he's a streaky hitter and could fall apart at any time again. With Carlos Gomez headed to the disabled list for a couple of weeks, Houston decided to see how Colin Moran can mix in at the hot corner.
Pumping the Gas
Colin Moran is a top prospect for a reason. He was drafted 6th overall in 2013 for a reason. That reason is the hit tool. Moran hits, plain and simple. Lots of guys have power, but they can't hit. Lots of guys have amazing speed and reflexes, but they can't hit. Those guys bust. Give me a hit tool and we'll worry about the rest later.
Moran is polished, and he grew up around the game. Bloodlines are a real thing. Some scouts complain that he's not fiery enough or they're not sure he cares enough? I see a guy who has been there. I see a guy who is unfazed because it's familiar. He's not in over his head. He's been raised and trained for this day his entire life. How many guys are so awestruck and afraid that it takes them a couple of weeks in the Majors just to get their bearings? Not this kid.
A-ball, A-Advanced, Double-A, Triple-A...he's done nothing but hit. Across those levels, he's a .299 hitter. He's never posted a below-average wRC+. His career strike out rate is just 17%. This is a guy I want up with a man on third and less than two outs. This is a guy that gives me some hope with the tying run at second late in the game. Calm, collected, confident in himself. He knows who he is and what he can do. Bloodlines make a difference. I've seen enough wild hacks at breaking balls the last couple of years to last me a lifetime. Give me a hitter. Colin Moran is a hitter.
Pumping the Brakes
Colin Moran has definitely hit in the minors, but we all know that doesn't always lead to success in the Majors. Last year, clearly his best, Moran hit .306/.381/.459 with a 10.3% walk rate and an 18.9% strike out rate in Double-A. Meanwhile, Tyler White hit .362/.467/.559 with a 16.2% walk rate and a 14.7% strike out rate in Triple-A. That's the kind of hitting that really gets you excited. And yet, White is now hitting .234 with a sub-10% walk rate in the Majors. It just doesn't always work out immediately. Many times it never does.
Maybe Moran will work out, and maybe it will come instantly, but there's no proof of it. The book on him from scouts is pretty consistent; he's a third baseman who can barely play third base and doesn't have power. He'll hit, maybe, but how empty will the average be? We're worried about Tony Kemp's empty average, and he's a middle-infielder and a centerfielder. Moran plays a corner position, and only just.
Moran is a good prospect, but not great. This isn't A.J. Reed. This isn't Alex Bregman. Ask any scout; the marks against him seem bigger than the marks for. He could help, but it seems more likely that he won't provide much more offense, if any, than Luis Valbuena. And we know his defense won't even be close. Colin Moran almost certainly isn't the answer to the Astros' woes.