By Jason Shetler
Prior to last season, the Pittsburgh Pirates dealt Gerrit Cole to the Houston Astros. With the uncertainty of Jung-Ho Kang, the Pirates were expected to get a third baseman in the trade, and did so by acquiring Colin Moran as one of four players that Houston included in the deal.
Moran’s first full season in the Majors last year had its share of positives and negatives. For the first three months of the season, Moran performed well with a .781 OPS. He then hit a rough patch in July and August, combining for just a .661 OPS. Moran however did end his season on a high note, as he put up an OPS of .912 in September.
Jung-Ho Kang made his return to the Pirates in 2018 during the season finale in Cincinnati. After much speculation about Kang’s $5.5 million club option for 2019, the Pirates chose to decline the option, but they re-signed Kang to a one-year deal worth $3 million, with incentives at $2.5 million, so he can still earn that $5.5, if he’s able to reach his incentives.
Both Kang and Moran entered Spring Training vying for a spot to be the Pirates regular third baseman. Kang to this point has displayed much more power with five home runs compared to just one for Moran. While not etched in stone yet, Kang is likely the favorite to win the job. If that winds up being the case, then should Moran still make the Opening Day roster?
Moran does have an option remaining, so the Pirates could send him to AAA Indianapolis, without the consequences of being claimed off waivers. The problem is that Ke’Bryan Hayes is projected to be the everyday third baseman with Indy to begin the season, so having Moran there would take away at-bats from Hayes, which obviously wouldn’t be ideal for a top prospect and his development.
The power numbers were subpar for Moran in 2018, as hit 11 home runs and posted only a .407 slugging percentage in 465 plate appearances. However, he did pretty good work reaching base, posting a .340 on base percentage. As an offensive performer, Moran had an oWAR of 1.9, which certainly isn’t great, but also not terrible. He was productive as a pinch-hitter, batting .423 (11-for-26) in that role. With the exception of Melky Cabrera, who will likely be the fourth outfielder, the Pirates don’t have many left-handed hitting options for the bench, so Moran would fit that spot on the roster. While Moran may not profile as a consistent regular, he could still be serviceable as an offensive-minded bench bat.