The Runner Sports

Attack Of The Baby Astros, Pt. 2: Colin Moran Sees The Day

Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch doesn’t know it yet, but he’s heading for a collision of decisions around the end of March. Colin Moran is one of a handful of Astro prospects seeing to it by having a bang-up spring.

Related: Attack of the Baby Astros, Pt. 1: A.J. Reed, Bat Reborn

Moran was up with the Astros for nine games last season, and seemed over-matched, as his 23 at-bats yielded just 3 hits (one a double), a walk and 8 Ks. He grounded into 4 double plays.

He’s the younger brother of Brian Moran, lefty pitcher in the Baltimore Orioles organization, and nephew of former major leaguer, B. J. Surhoff (Brewers, O’s, Braves). In fact, Moran, the younger, grew up a fan of whichever team his uncle was on.

Of Brian, Colin reflected recently: “I’ve had baseball all my life. Obviously my brother, I’d just follow him around all day, everywhere, which probably got annoying, but it made me like baseball that much more.”

Houston’s Moran has been making his bat heard this spring, and so far, his bat has been screaming. And not a moment too soon.

Moran, 24 (and Houston’s #7-ranked prospect), was optioned to Houston’s minor league camp, March 21st. He finished his time at major league camp slashing a .389/.439/.611 OPS, in 36 Grapefruit League at-bats.

“I feel good right now, made some adjustments in the offseason and I’m just glad to see positive results,” said Moran, recently, from the clubhouse of the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

Expanding, he added, “Just some swing mechanics, some things that allow me to clear up some of the weaknesses I had last year.

“I worked really hard to get the body ready in the offseason,” Moran said. “That’s what you do, keep it going throughout the season and just try to stay healthy.”

Related: Colin Moran: Spring ’16 Check-In

Labor of Glove

Like many of the Houston prospects, this spring, facing an Astro team plugged at every position, with not one, but two, and in some cases, three able and capable backups, Moran has seen fit to don a different glove, in order to display some defensive flexibility.

Long a third baseman, he sees Alex Bregman, Yuli Gurriel, Marwin Gonzalez, and even (currently playing 3B in the World Baseball Classic, for Puerto Rico), Carlos Correa as logs in the jam for the hot corner.

The 6’4″, 204-pound Moran has seen some games, so far this spring, with a first baseman’s mitt on his left hand (he bats left, but throws right), and has even seen time at SS.

Entering Astro Orbit

Moran attended the University of North Carolina, and was named the 2013 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Player of the Year. The Astros so coveted the talented Tar Heel, they almost passed over RHP Mark Appel (traded to Philadelphia in the December 2015 Ken Giles trade) to choose Moran first overall in the 2013 First Year Player Draft.

Video: Watch ACC-produced highlight video of Moran’s Award-winning 2013 at UNC.

Houston selected Appel first, and the Miami Marlins ended up choosing Moran 6th overall.

Video: Watch Moran hit HR in his 1st pro AB (with brief interview), with Marlins’ Class A Greensboro Grasshoppers affiliate, from local Greensboro, NC WXII-TV station.

Waiting just over a year brought the Astros his services, as they also received OF Jake Marisnick, RHP Francis Martes (currently Houston’s #1 prospect), and a 2015 compensatory draft pick in a trade with the Marlins. Houston sent P Jarred Cosart, utility player Enrique Hernandez, and OF Austin Wates to Florida in that trade.

Of the trade, Moran said at the time, “We were in the locker room and someone just kind of said they read it on Twitter, so it was kind of surprising (not learning of the trade from the manager). I guess that’s just how it works now, Twitter being so quick.”

Why He’s On Radar In the First Place

Despite his .259 BA, at Houston’s Triple-A Fresno affiliate, Moran had a solid, if unspectacular 2016 season. I’m sure he’d tell you he’d rather be further down than 12th on the Pacific Coast League strikeout list.

But more consistent contact may be one of the adjustments Moran was speaking of earlier. In fact, solid contact has been his calling card since college, when he hit a combined .346 in his three years at UNC.

In a virtually unheard-of strikeout to walk ratio at any level, Moran walked a three-year total of 131 times, versus a strikeout total of just 82, in 699 ABs. His three-year UNC OPS was .983.

Scout Nathaniel Stoltz once offered this explanation as to why Moran’s strikeout percentage in college was so low: “Much of the credit is owed to his natural hand-eye coordination and contact based approach. Despite his natural strength and power potential, Moran doesn’t swing for the fences, focusing on making hard contact and letting the deep fly balls come naturally through backspin.”

Spring Loaded

Like most of the busting-down-the-door “Baby Astros” in this series, the way is blocked, at the moment, for immediate Major League entry.

If Moran isn’t traded (a distinct possibility, as knowledge of his spring numbers and Houston’s depth don’t exist in a vacuum), he’ll start 2017 back in Fresno, and wait for the unfortunate injury, or other unforeseen event, for his eventual full-time MLB day in the sun.

“I don’t really worry about the uncontrollables,” Moran philosophized, recently. “I just try to take care of business and kind of put faith that good things will happen if you do well. I can’t control more than that.”

Carpe diem.

Related: Moran Could Step Up at 3B in the Astros’ Bizarro World

Related: March Magnets! Strong Astros Roster Repels Moran’s Iron-Clad Spring!

Brad Kyle

Brad Kyle

Seen here, meeting Nolan Ryan at Dell Diamond in Round Rock (TX), around the turn of the century.

Brad was born and raised in the shadow of what eventually became Colt Stadium, and then, in '65, the Astrodome.

Brad's a semi-retired entertainer, having been lead singer (and flautist) of high school rock cover band Brimstone (Houston, early '70s).

He currently sings karaoke nightly, and also performs at nursing homes and private parties.

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Brad Kyle