KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Ask anyone who's been around him this spring, and they'll tell you Astros third base prospect Colin Moran is more comfortable and more at ease in Major League camp. Moran will tell you that himself, admitting that having a year under his belt in the organization and another solid season in the Minor Leagues can only boost your confidence.
With Luis Valbuena set to be a free agent following this season, the Astros' sixth-ranked prospect appears to be next in line to play third base for the Astros, and general manager Jeff Luhnow said he could make his debut at some point this summer. Unlike Valbuena -- and many third basemen -- Moran isn't a masher. He's a high average, high on-base player who compares to Mark Grace.
"Colin Moran is the first name that comes to mind as a guy who's gotten physically bigger and is more comfortable," manager A.J. Hinch said. "I've already talked to him more this spring than I did the entire spring last year, so that's maturation. And he really looks like he's sort of growing into more strength and more comfort."
Moran, 23, is a lanky 6-foot-4, left-handed-hitting former No. 6 overall pick who last year hit .306 with nine homers, 67 RBIs and a .381 on-base percentage at Double-A Corpus Christi. He missed a month after breaking his jaw in a freak accident while sliding into second base headfirst, but he finished the season with a flourish. He hit .349 in July and .320 in August/September.
He'll begin the season at the starting third baseman at Triple-A Fresno with Houston on the horizon.
"The best thing he can do is hit, and I think as long as he continues to do that, he's going to have a long and successful Major League career," Luhnow said. "He's been successful at the plate since he was in high school, had a great college career and so far has been very productive offensively throughout his Minor League career, and I expect that to continue. Defensively, he's got a good arm and plays third base very well, and I don't see any reason why this guy's not going to have a pretty exciting career."
Moran, drafted by the Marlins in 2013, was acquired by the Astros in the July 31, 2014, trade that sent pitcher Jarred Cosart to Miami. He was in Major League camp in 2015 and has settled into his surroundings this year.
"I played with a lot of these guys [in 2015], and I'm not coming into a new organization or anything," he said. "I feel more comfortable."
Moran isn't going to put up big power numbers, but there's strength to his swing. It's a flat, line-drive swing, but he will have his biggest chance to show what he can do this year in camp with more at-bats.
"He will hit for average, some power, but not a ton," Luhnow said. "At the end of the year, you look up and you've got a guy who's hitting .300 and maybe driving in 80 and scoring 80, and those guys are really valuable."