When the Pirates head north, Colin Moran will likely begin the year as the starting third baseman. Should he though?
When Moran was acquired in the infamous Gerrit Cole trade, the thought was that he could be a solid hitter with 20-30 home run potential. In two seasons with the Pirates, that has not been the case. He has hit 24 total home runs.
Last season, the left-handed hitting 27-year-old hit .277/.322/.429 with 13 home runs in 503 plate appearances. His wRC+ stood at a below average 94. His fWAR was a measly 0.1. Although Moran has a strong arm, his range at third base is flat out embarrassing. He moves as though his shoes are filled with concrete. Because of that, he is a well below average defender.
In my opinion, Moran would be better suited as a bat coming off of the bench. One skill that he has shown is as a pinch hitter, albeit in a small sample. In 56 career pinch hit appearances, Moran has hit .347/.429/.633 with four home runs. Last season, he hit three of those pinch hit home runs.
Who should start then?
Let’s be real. The Pirates won’t inspire much fear with their bats in 2020. Runs will come at a premium. Because of that, defense should be the main focus for a team that doesn’t have great pitching either.
Here’s the solution.
Slide Kevin Newman over to third base with Cole Tucker as the everyday shortstop. Adam Frazier can stick at second. Yes I know, Newman only played 31.2 innings at third base last season and to be honest, he wasn’t great. I have confidence though that with everyday experience, he would be a much better defender at third than Moran. I also have confidence that Tucker, who would be replacing Moran’s everyday at bats, would be able to at least come close to matching his production at the plate.
The lineup would look something like this:
In reality, this will only be a thing for the first few months of the season. Once Ke’Bryan Hayes is called up, the third base job will be his. When that happens, one of Tucker, Newman, or Frazier can be taken out of the everyday lineup.
If they’re all hitting well, perhaps Newman can move to the outfield. We can save that conversation for another day though.