Many things became a lot clearer after Todd Frazier’s opt out, immediately following the news that he been informed by the team he would not be making the Pirates Open Day Roster; one of which being Pittsburgh’s apparent faith in Colin Moran to man the first base position on a more regular basis than may have been originally intended. Sure Phillip Evans is more than capable to fill in for Moran in platoon situations, scheduled off days or when the Redbeard really needs a rest, but I no longer see the somewhat pressing need to get a vet like Frazier regular at bats in order to showcase him for what would have almost certainly been a deadline deal to a contender for prospect(s). Instead look for Moran to get 500+ plate appearances for only the second time in his career, which at first glance might not be seen as ideal by some, but it starts to looks better considering his glove won’t come in to play as much and due to his new found power.
For most Pirates Fans, Colin Moran is just another piece acquired in the underwhelming Gerrit Cole Trade back in January of 2018, however, approximately five years before that Moran was the 6th Overall Pick by the Miami Marlins out of North Carolina; who tore his way through the Cape Cod League in back to seasons, all before he even turned 21. Eventually traded to the Houston Astros, he made his MLB debut in 2016, after excelling at nearly every level and ranking at #7 on their top 30 prospects list that year. The majority of his playing time came at third base, but it can be seen that he had started to see more time at first in the upper levels, so it is possible that Houston saw some concerns about him being able to stick at the hot corner. However, when he came to Pittsburgh Josh Bell had that position pretty much on lock, leaving third as his only real option.
In two years for the Pirates, Moran earned a -27 DRS and -24 OAA, good for last in each category for qualifying third baseman and in direct competition with Miguel Andujar of the Yankees for the worst defender at the position in all of MLB. At the plate was nothing if not consistent, and by that I mean consistently average as he produced a combined 98 wRC+ and batted .277 in both seasons. Then last season, thanks to the DH being allowed in the National League, Moran was able to move across the diamond and split duties with Josh Bell. At times Moran looked better at the plate than he had in previous years, especially in the beginning of the season as he slashed .333/.385/.875 with 4 homers in his first seven games. Obviously he was unable to maintain this pace, and played at a similar defensive standard to Bell at first, at least statistically speaking in 2020; putting up a -1 DRS and 0 AAA to Bell’s -1 DRS and -3 OAA, however, it was enough to see Bell as expendable for an off-season trade.
With all of this behind them, including the aforementioned trade of Bell and Frazier opt-out, Moran is the lone man standing. Sure, Evans is their to provide relief and Will Craig remains as depth in AAA, but beyond that the next challenger for the position has yet to take an at bat above High A; and has some concerns of his own to overcome.
So, for at least this season, and possibly the next the Redbeard is the Pirates first baseman. Now I don’t expect him to blow away anyone at the position, although the former 1st Round Pick might surprise some; much like he did at the beginning of last year.