Although the news has yet to come across the official MLB transaction wire, multiple sources report this afternoon that the Houston Astros will promote third base prospect Colin Moran to the big league roster tonight. Drafted by the Miami Marlins in the first round in 2013 from the University of North Carolina, Moran was traded to the Astros in the 2013 Jarred Cosart/Jake Marisnick/Francis Martes deal.
Moran has been on prospect lists for years dating back to his amateur days but is actually something of an enigma. From the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book
Colin Moran, 3B, Houston Astros
Bats: L Throws: R HT: 6-4 WT: 215 DOB: October 1, 1992
2014: Grade B+; 2015: Grade B-
In one sense, Moran is a very easy prospect to analyze. He’s basically exactly the player scouts expected him to be coming out of North Carolina: a high batting average hard contact hitter with gap power and a strong on-base percentage, with marginal home run power and mediocre defense at third base. In another sense, the fact that nothing has really changed here makes him harder to analyze, too. Will he show more home run power? Will his defense improve? His arm is fine; in general he is not a butcher but he is far from a gold glove due to just-adequate range. My guess is that Moran will be playable at third until he reaches his late 20s and starts to lose range with age. The bat I’m less certain of, mostly because I’m a lot less confident analyzing swing mechanics than I am with fielding or pitching. He has a clean line drive stroke right now, that much is obvious, but can he successfully tweak it and add more of a power load without screwing everything else up? I don’t know. He did seem to drive the ball a little more often last year but was this just random variation or did it presage a larger change? We’ll split the difference between his 2014 and 2015 ratings with a Grade B.
Moran was hitting .288/.331/.416 with three homers, nine walks, and 32 strikeouts in 125 at-bats for Triple-A Fresno in the friendly Pacific Coast League.
PCL observers report that Moran's defense at third base remains unspectacular but steady; the early numbers for range factors and fielding percentage are in line with his previous career standards, so the reports seem valid. The glove isn't terrific, but it is playable if he hits enough.
As for the bat. . .
There has been no increase in isolated power this year but there has been a slippage in on-base percentage and walk rate, plus he is actually hitting the ball on the ground more often this year than last. If he is being aggressive in an attempt to hit for more power, it is not working, at least not consistently.
It did work on this swing:
And here's some more typical opposite field gap power.
Sometimes you just have to admit that you don't know and that's where I am with Moran. I don't know if he will add more power or not. I don't know if his lower walk rate and OBP this year is a real change in approach or just a small sample size data blip.
We have readers who know a lot more about hitting mechanics than I do. What do you guys think?