A Look at Colin Moran vs. Luis Valbuena for the Astros’ Third Base Job
As the number six prospect in the Astros system, third baseman Colin Moran has a lot to prove in 2016. Even though he did start the year at Triple-A Fresno, the third base job at the major league level is still in limbo. It is up to Moran to earn the major league job with Luis Valbuena struggling at the hot corner in Houston. It has yet to be seen if he has earned it, however.
At first glance, Moran is off to a good start at Fresno in 2016. Through 22 games, he is hitting .310 with four doubles, a home run, and 15 RBIs. These numbers have been typical of Moran throughout his minor career. Moran’s bat has always favored doubles more than home runs with a career slugging percentage of.424.
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However, if you take a closer look at Moran’s numbers, there is a glaring problem. Through his 92 plate appearances, Moran has 23 strikeouts compared to only seven walks. His strikeout percentage is at a career-high 25% while his walk percentage is at 7.6%, which is a 2.7% decrease from last year’s campaign with Double-A Corpus Christi.
His stats thus far at Triple-A Fresno are very similar to what Tyler White is doing at the major league level this season. Through White’s first 26 games in the majors, he has a strikeout percentage of 24.7% and a walk percentage of 8.2%. However, when Moran makes contact with the ball, it is more likely that it will become a base hit compared to White. Moran has a BABIP of .410 compared to his batting average of .310. So how do Moran’s numbers compare to what Valbuena is doing at the major league level?
Through 23 games, Valbuena has hit .182 with four doubles, 0 home runs, and 4 RBIs. With Valbuena not looking to keep the job much longer, Astros fans may be wondering how Moran would do at the major league level. From his numbers at Triple-A Fresno, Moran is in for a tough transition. His BABIP and batting average are bound to decline once he moves to Houston, and with his lack of power, with only a .393 slugging percentage so far in 2016, you will not see Moran on base much in the early stages of his career.
Also, his strikeouts are a huge problem. If he is striking out 25% in Triple-A, who knows how bad the transition to major league pitching will be. He will put up numbers similar to what Valbuena would if he did not have some power.
Moran’s time has not come. His ceiling is very high. I could see him batting second at the major league level with a contact bat that has been very impressive throughout his minor league career. However, with the Astros having huge expectations for a powerful offense, and especially since they have not met those expectations after a rough April, the need for a power threat at third base is key. Moran’s time will come, but he will have to continue to produce near the top of the lineup for Fresno along with reducing his strikeout numbers.
***Stats from Fangraphs***