After a disappointing start to the 2014 season, Colin Moran has finally started hitting like the Marlins thought he would when they selected him in the first round of the 2013 draft. The third basemen out of the University of North Carolina started his career off with a bang for the Greensboro Grasshoppers last summer by hitting a home run in his first professional at bat. From there, he would go on to hit .299/.354/.442 in 154 at-bats to close out the season.
After proving he could handle the South Atlantic League Moran started the 2014 season by jumping up to high-A in Jupiter. He had a slow start to his season, but in his last ten games he has hit .326/.347 /.565 to raise his season line to .284/.324/.402. On June 7th Moran nearly hit for the cycle, by going 3 for 5 with a homer, a single, and a double. The season is only 46 games old, but it is still nice to see Moran breakout of his early season slump.
Moran is a very unique prospect. He is a corner infielder with a good hit tool, but very limited power. He is very adept at hitting to the opposite field and features doubles power to both gaps, but that has not translated into home run power at this point in his career. His swing is unique to say the least. He takes a long lunging stride and slashes at the ball. I would not call his swing ugly, but on a scale from Hunter Pence to Christian Yelich it leans closer to Pence.
Moran's range at third base is limited but he has soft hands, and a strong enough arm to stay at third when he reaches the major leagues. He is not bad defensively but due to his footwork, and range his ceiling defensively is not very high. Due to these limitations in the field, and his lack of power, his value as a prospect revolves around him getting hits, and more importantly getting on base.
To continue his development as a player Moran is going to have to walk more. He posted high walk rates in college, and last season at Greensboro, but this season that has been a struggle. His on base percentage his senior year at UNC was .470, and the .354 mark he posted in Greensboro is solid, so I expect the walks to come. His line drive producing swing might result in him posting a high and sustainable BABIP so he could get away with not walking, but both a high BABIP and a high walk rate would lead to Moran becoming an on base percentage machine. Moran's whole career is a small sample, but I expect his walk rate at Greensboro to be a good indication of how he will perform as a major leaguer.
By the end of the season look for Moran to make the jump to Double-A Jacksonville, which will be the real test for him as a prospect. If he proves he can get on base against Double-A pitching, Moran could find himself with a taste of the major leagues by the end of the 2015 season. This is a presumptuous projection for a player still in A ball, but Moran is the type of player that once proves his specific skillset is developed fully he will rise quickly.
Casey McGehee has been fantastic for Miami to start the season, but he is not the long term answer at third base. Moran may not be a superstar, but he has a unique skillset and could be a valuable and productive player for the Marlins for many years. If he develops into average defensive third basemen that hits .280/.360/.420, then Marlins fans should be happy.