by Ray Kuhn
Opportunity… For young players looking to establish themselves in the big leagues it’s critical. The trade to Pittsburgh, along with the Pirates subsequently trading Andrew McCutchen, took care of that for Colin Moran. Prior to the trade Houston was working to add to the corner infielder’s versatility, giving him time in left field. As currently constructed Pittsburgh has a spot open in the outfield after trading their franchise cornerstone, but there is even less resistance at third base. At this point in his career David Freese likely will not offer up much in the way of an obstacle to regular playing time for Moran if he produces.
Moran, formerly a high draft choice by the Marlins, has a solid pedigree as a prospect and last season, we saw Moran take a few critical steps in potentially establishing himself as a contributor at the major league level.
If Moran didn’t foul a ball off his face last July he would likely be on the radar of more fantasy owners. The problem is that he didn’t have a chance to show his improvements in the Majors. Those gains came both in his surface performance, he hit .308 with 18 HR and 63 RBI in 338 plate appearances at Triple-A, and in some underlying metrics. That is why I am a believer of Moran as a late round flier (given his ADP he is essentially free).
Instead of wondering whether or not Moran can maintain the home run gains, we can point to a clear change in approach that led to the increase. His power improvement was real as we saw his ISO increase from .109 to .235. After hitting 10 home runs in 511 plate appearances in 2016, it was clear a change was needed. We saw his fly ball rate go from 29.7% all the way up to 40.2% last season. By the same token Moran also added some line drives as he was able to bring his ground ball rate down to 33.7% from 47.2% in 2016.
While improving on his power he was also able to bring his strikeout percentage down substantially; from 24.3% to 16.3%. This was done while he maintained his nine percent walk rate. With that being said, you have to like Moran’s plate skills and approach.
He is never going to hit for an extreme amount of power, but with the changes he made to his swing 20 home runs are very possible with regular playing time. That, coupled with a batting average that could be an asset, makes Moran a deep sleeper for me this season.
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