Since trading away Miguel Cabrera six years ago, third base has become a revolving door for the Marlins.
Jorge Cantu, Emilio Bonifacio, Wes Helms, Greg Dobbs, Hanley Ramirez and Placido Polanco have all had a chance to man the hot corner. Nobody has made it the spot their permanent home.
North Carolina All-American third baseman Colin Moran might finally be the guy who does. On Thursday night, the worst-hitting team in baseball used the sixth overall pick in the MLB Draft to try and fill that hole by selecting one of the best pure hitters and run producers at the collegiate level.
The left-handed hitting Moran, listed at 6-4 and 205 pounds, has driven in a nation’s best 86 runs this season while hitting .348 with 13 homers for the No. 1-ranked Tar Heels, who are still playing for the College World Series title.
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The Marlins believe Moran not only fills a need, but also he could be a perfect fit for their spacious ballpark. Marlins vice president of scouting Stan Meek said Moran has an advanced knowledge of the strike zone and points to the 60 walks he has drawn compared with his 22 strikeouts this season.
“What I like about him is he’s not concerned with the home run as much as he is driving the ball and the ball comes off the bat well,” said Meek, who saw Moran lead the wood-bat Cape Cod League last summer with 42 RBI and compares him to a young Wade Boggs.
“I like a guy who can hit first. This guy stays on the ball in all parts on the zone. That for us is where you start. I think he’ll have adequate power to hit at third base.”
The nephew of MLB veteran BJ Surhoff, who spent 19 years with the Brewers, Orioles and Braves and hit .282 in his career, Moran has always hit for average and driven in runs. He was Baseball America’s Freshman of the Year in 2011 when hit .335 with nine homers and 71 RBI. In 2012, he hit .365 with six homers and 35 RBI for the Tar Heels.
“He’s a line-drive, gap hitter who is not going to be disturbed by the power numbers in that ballpark,” MLB analyst Peter Gammons said of Moran. “And he will be very fast to the big leagues. I kept hearing they were in love with him from his workout and his interview. Extremely talented hitter.”
Moran was surrounded by his teammates at his mother’s apartment in Carey, N.C., when he got the call from the Marlins. Born in Rye, N.Y., Moran said he grew up a Yankees fan and said Marlins hitting coach Tino Martinez was one of his favorite players.
Meek said the Marlins will likely send Moran to Single A Greensboro (N.C.) once he signs.
“It was crazy, something I always dreamed of,” said Moran, who was not drafted coming out of high school. “Now that it’s realistic and I know where I’m going, it’s unbelievable. Right before the pick I kind of had an idea I was going to get picked. It was awesome. My family and teammates were there, and it felt great.”
Thursday’s draft marked only the sixth time since 1992 the Marlins had one of the first six picks in the draft. He’s the first third baseman the team has taken since Matt Dominguez, who was traded to the Astros last season.
How much will it cost to sign Moran before the signing deadline on July 12? The allotted draft slot for this year’s sixth pick is $3,516,500.
Last year, former Hialeah Mater Academy shortstop Albert Almora went sixth overall to the Cubs. Slotted to receive $3.25 million, the Cubs went over and signed Almora for $3.9 million.
The Marlins have traditionally gone in the opposite direction when it comes to signing draft picks. Last year, Oklahoma State left-hander Andrew Heaney had been asking for the recommended slot bonus of $2.8 million for the ninth-overall pick, but he ended up taking the Marlins’ final offer of $2.6 million with about 40 minutes to go before the signing deadline.
Meek, though, doesn’t anticipate signing Moran to be difficult.
“I think we’ll get this done,” Meek said. “I think its time for him to go play. I think they want him to go play. The money will be significant, so we should be fine.”
How quickly could Moran join a Marlins lineup starved for offense?
“We don’t really know,” Meek said. “I think he’s an advanced college bat. Hopefully, it won’t take that long. These guys kind of drive their own train, but we do think he’ll be a little bit faster than these high school guys.”
The Marlins addressed pitching with their next three picks Thursday, taking 6-4, 200-pound left-hander Matt Krook of St. Ignacious High School in San Francisco and Arizona State right-hander Trevor Williams with the 44th pick in the second round.
Krook, taken with the 35th overall pick in Competitive Balance Round A, is a University of Oregon commitment, but said signing with the Marlins won't be a problem.
"I love Oregon, love the coaches up there, but I think at this point I'm ready to play pro ball," Krook said. "I just want to get my career started. Both me and [advisor Matt Sosnick] knew what it would take to decide and it fell in the range."
Sosnick is also the agent for Marlins pitcher Ricky Nolasco.
Krook said he averages 92, 93 miles per hour on his fastball and tops out at 95. He also throws a curveball, slider and change. He grew up a Giants fan and patterns his game after Clayton Kershaw and Matt Cain.
Williams (6-3, 225) had a stellar sophomore season, going 12-2 with a 2.05 ERA, earning All-Pac 10 First Team honors. But he struggled this past season, going 6-6 with a 4.12 ERA. He still had an 86/21 strikeout to walk ratio.
With their final pick on Thursday, the Marlins took right-handed closer Colby Suggs of the University of Fayetteville Arkansas. He was the 74th pick overall and the last of five picks in Competitive Balance Round B. Suggs posted 13 saves and a 1.74 ERA this past season.
The Marlins said Thursday that former manager Jack McKeon, who had heart bypass surgery Monday, will be released from a Duke University hospital Friday and head home.