Kevin Gorman: Pirates counting on Colin Moran at 3rd base
Colin Moran casts a striking figure at 6-foot-4 and with a full, red beard, and the Pirates are counting on him to go from centerpiece to cornerstone.
The Bucs are banking on Moran, a key piece to the Gerrit Cole trade, being the answer at third base and a left-handed bat who can pound balls over PNC Park's short right-field porch.
Moran has made a positive first impression in his first week at Pirate City, as teammates noticed a sweet swing they describe as simple.
“Before he got here, you start to understand that he's made some strides, especially in the batter's box,” fellow Pirates third baseman David Freese said. “You meet him and he's a great dude, and you can tell right away he's going to work his tail off to do what he needs to do.
“I think he's just a solid ballplayer that's going to get really good. He's going to be a great ballplayer. You watch him for a couple days and he works hard, and he's got a good swing.”
It starts with the swing.
“He knows, understands hitting. Just a couple days of talking to him, the guy knows what it takes, mechanically and mentally,” Freese said. “Just with his swing. That's going to take him places. It's very simple, just fundamentally efficient. He has a swing that can go to all fields, and he's got some pop. He's going to be fun to watch.”
Now, before we get ahead of ourselves, it's worth remembering Moran has yet to play a game for the Pirates in spring training, let alone in the majors.
But teammates like what they've seen so far from Moran, who has strong baseball bloodlines and the personal pedigree as a former first-round pick.
And those are the shadows he must escape for success.
Moran wants the same thing the Pirates do: To be the guy who makes everyone forget Jung Ho Kang and Pedro Alvarez were supposed to be the answers at the hot corner.
To be the cornerstone opposite Josh Bell.
“That's the goal,” Moran said. “You just try to take it day by day and take care of business. I try not to look too far into the future, but I have goals and dreams. I just try to put in hard work to make those possible.”
Moran dreams of becoming a big-leaguer seemed realistic, given his family tree. One uncle, B.J. Surhoff, was the 1985 first overall pick and had 2,326 hits in 19 seasons. Another, Rich Surhoff, pitched in the majors. Moran's older brother, Brian, is a left-handed pitcher in camp with the L.A. Dodgers.
“No doubt,” Moran said. “Just watching them growing up, all my uncles and my brother especially, following my brother and in the footsteps of my uncles. ... You're seeing what your dream is out there. It makes things a little bit more real and more exciting to try to accomplish when you have someone like your uncle out there.”
Moran knows the pressure that comes with being the No. 6 overall pick in 2013 who has twice been traded for pitchers, a promising prospect who has played 16 MLB games.
“We liked the player when we went and got him,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We want to give him an opportunity to continue to work and play and integrate. The games are going to give us a better feel and look and give him a better feel and look.
“The bat has barrel to it, and there's offensive production there that I think he started to get a grip on last year that could play very well for us. Moving forward, we'll see what kind of defender he is. We've heard he's steady. He's dependable. The balls he gets to he puts away as outs.”
It's not just Moran's bat that has the Pirates pumped. He arrived early, befriended Bell and is soaking up advice from teammates who say Moran has a professional approach to hitting and a work ethic to match.
“It's humbling to hear stuff like that,” Moran said, “but it doesn't mean anything until you go out there and produce on the field. You have to go out there and prove your worth.”
The Pirates are counting on Moran to do just that, to step out of the shadows and become a starter, if not a star.