Rookie Moran shows advanced eye at plate

September 3rd, 2018

PITTSBURGH -- It might be easy to forget that , underneath his bushy red beard, is still a rookie. The 25-year-old has a low-key personality that makes it seem like he's been here before. He hasn't.

Moran is in the final month of his first full Major League season, an up-and-down year full of lessons for the former first-round pick.

"It's just a different league, obviously. I feel like I had to experience a lot of stuff to learn from it," Moran said. "Guys are better. That's the bottom line. So, you've got to be consistently at your best as much as you can. There's going to be times where you're not very good, but you've got to limit those."

Moran entered Monday's Labor Day matinee batting .280/.338/.391 with eight homers, 49 RBIs and an adjusted OPS one percent better than the MLB average. The Pirates believe there is more power in his bat, which they saw when he hit 18 homers in 79 games for the Astros' Triple-A affiliate last season.

"I think he's got an awareness for learning," manager Clint Hurdle said. "I think he believes there is more power there, and it will play out over time. He learned the ability to try to look to launch [the ball] early then cut it down a little bit with two strikes. So, I just love the professional approach."

Moran went 3-for-4 and hit four balls in the air in Sunday's 5-1 loss to the Braves. Hurdle said it was "as good as he's swung the bat in a while," and it might have been another learning experience for Moran. Typically a patient hitter, Moran saw only nine pitches in his four at-bats.

"I guess I've just been having better at-bats for the most part lately. Just trying to adjust to getting a good pitch to hit," Moran said. "I'm definitely trying to keep a good eye. I've been all right at that. But I feel like I can definitely be better at pitch selection, just constantly trying to get better at it."

That is easier said than done in the Majors, given the amount of data and the level of detail in every scouting report. Consider that Moran thrived last year by crushing inside pitches. This season, 13.2 percent of the pitches Moran has seen have been over the inner third of the plate, according to Statcast™, compared to 18.3 percent over the outer third and 20.5 percent down and away, out of the strike zone.

"To hit for good power up here, you've got to be able to hit the whole zone -- to be able to drive the whole zone, not just certain parts of it," Moran said. "You've definitely got to be able to drive the pitch away. Stuff like that is definitely what I'm trying to work on."

Around the horn

• Triple-A Indianapolis was eliminated from postseason contention on Sunday and played its season finale on Monday. The Pirates likely will introduce another round of callups on Tuesday.

General manager Neal Huntington recently mentioned outfielder and infielder Kevin Kramer as options, and there are six pitchers on the 40-man roster who finished the season with Indianapolis.

• Hurdle said he met with the Pirates' veterans to discuss their playing time down the stretch. While infielders Josh Harrison and will cede some starts to young players, the trio of Corey Dickerson, and will continue to play regularly. will occasionally move to the outfield, as will Luplow. Pablo Reyes, who made his Major League debut on Sunday, can play all three outfield spots.

• Double-A Altoona clinched its second straight Eastern League Western Division title on Sunday. The top of Altoona's lineup -- prospects Cole Tucker, Ke'Bryan Hayes, and Will Craig -- went a combined 10-for-20 with two doubles, a triple and eight RBIs in a 10-8 win over Bowie.