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Moving On Up: Colin Moran

Moran may not be the prospect that most Astros fans were hoping to see called-up to reinforce the inconsistent offense, but there is a real opportunity for playing time here. Can he seize the brass ring?

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Early this morning, Peter Gammons tweeted that the Astros would be calling up Colin Moran. Team beat writer Jake Kaplan confirmed the story, and added that he would be with the team in Chicago tonight. As of this writing, no corresponding move has been announced (though it seems that Marwin Gonzalez will not be heading to the DL). Here is what I wrote about the 23-year-old Moran in our Astros top-ten prospect list:

No Astros prospect solicited a wider array of opinions than Colin Moran, who was ranked as high as Tier 2 and as low as off of the list entirely. Moran was one of the most highly regarded prospects in the 2013 draft class, and was ranked as the 61st best prospect in baseball heading into the 2014 season by Baseball America. He underwhelmed in 2014 both offensively, his solid .296 batting average masking his lack of power (only 7 HR and a .101 in 515 PA), and defensively, leading many to believe that he would end up at first base sooner rather than later. His bat perked up in 2015, with 9 HR and a .153 ISO in 417 PA, and more patience at the plate. However, his defense remains well below-average at third. Long regarded as a natural hitter with great bat-to-ball skills, Moran has not disappointed in that regard. Without more power, though, a move to first would make him rather similar to Lyle Overbay, who had a couple of nice years, but was largely an average player at a power-heavy position.

That paragraph was written in late October, and not much has changed in the interim. Moran is currently batting .288/.331/.416 (102 wRC+) with 3 HR in 136 PA at Triple-A Fresno. It is worth noting that Moran is currently posting career-worst marks in BB% (6.6%) and K% (23.5%), which is a bit disconcerting (particularly the latter, as his value is almost entirely tied to his ability to make contact). As Jason Hunt noted in his PCL preview, Fresno plays in a fairly neutral environment, so the general caveats about the division do not apply. However, the converse also applies - meaning that this average production is fairly representative of who Moran is as a hitter at this point in his career. While this production is certainly not subpar, it is not quite what one would hope for from a below-average defender at third base.

Youth is still in Moran's favor, and, against my better judgment, I do think that he has the sort of approach that could eventually lead to a breakout. I don't think that he will ever reach the lofty heights that some projected when he was drafted 6th overall - but his ability to make quality contact isn't in doubt. Also in Moran's favor is the Astros lack of competition at the hot corner. The team's third basemen are currently batting .191/.276/.331, which is about 43% worse than league-average production at the position. Moran's pedigree and the team's hope to contend should allow him a long leash.

For fantasy purposes, that opportunity, coupled with a hitter-friendly home park and a solid lineup, might just make Moran worth a flier in AL-only or deeper leagues.