Astros: Colin Moran or Luis Valbuena?

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Mar 10, 2016; Melbourne, FL, USA; Houston Astros third baseman Colin Moran (79) hits a ball in the sixth inning against the Washington Nationals at Space Coast Stadium. The Houston Astros won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 10, 2016; Melbourne, FL, USA; Houston Astros third baseman Colin Moran (79) hits a ball in the sixth inning against the Washington Nationals at Space Coast Stadium. The Houston Astros won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports /
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Is it time for Colin Moran to make his debut for the Astros?

Let’s face it; the Astros haven’t seen much production from the hot corner lately. Luis Valbuena, the incumbent third baseman, has played a major role in transforming the bottom half of the lineup into a black hole.

This isn’t entirely surprising, though. After all, Valbuena’s production has continued to recede following his torrid first half last season. Even though he did set a career high in home runs (25), the Astros current third baseman hit only six more dingers after the month of June last year. And he only has two home runs in 106 at-bats this season. However, he has been picking up the pace in the month of May with two home runs and 14 RBI. But the fact that he posted an 82 wRC+ despite his big day yesterday still isn’t the best look for the Astros lineup.

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This is where you enter the possibility of promoting Colin Moran, the Astros sixth-ranked prospect, from the minors. While he may not be the power hitter like Valbuena has been since becoming an Astro, the lineup may very well benefit from a more consistent bat.

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And it isn’t like Moran hasn’t earned a shot. The former Miami Marlins farmhand has impressed since being acquired by the Astros in the Jarred Cosart trade in 2014. He is currently hitting a slash line of .288/.331/.416 with 36 hits in 125 at-bats. He’s also hit in 26 of the Fresno Grizzlies’ 31 games.

But the question remains whether he can develop power (only three home runs in 2016), and overcome his less than impressive walk and strikeout rates (6.1% BB%, 23.7% K% entering Sunday). If Moran can’t provide much power while having trouble hitting major league pitching, then the Astros may be better off sticking with Valbuena until Moran proves he is absolutely ready. And there isn’t a guarantee that the former Tar Heel could handle first base if that need arises for the Astros. In other words, the concerns are legitimate. But don’t let Moran’s long-term concerns shadow his potential to be an above-average third baseman. Don’t forget that he was drafted within the top six a few years ago, and that doesn’t happen on accident.

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Of course, Valbuena can still turn it around in 2016. The Astros have barely played a little more than a full months’ worth of games. He is starting to show signs of heating up, which would obviously be tremendous for the Astros. And Valbuena does field the hot corner pretty well and also possesses the skill to play first base. That kind of versatility is desirable. But the way Moran has been playing is sure making matters interesting for the Astros half way through May.

**Statistics provided by Fangraphs & Baseball-Reference**

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