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To recap the countdown so far:
We continue the countdown with the number 17 prospect, Max Moroff.
17. Max Moroff, 2B
When Moroff made his pro debut in the GCL in 2012, scouts loved him. The Pirates obviously loved him too, making him a backup plan when Mark Appel didn’t sign. His numbers in 2013 and 2014 weren’t good, but scouts never faded on him. The Pirates didn’t give up either, and were rewarded in 2015 with a breakout season. Moroff received their 2015 Minor League Player of the Year honors.
Moroff has always been a patient hitter who draws a lot of walks, but he was patient to a fault in the lower levels. He would often stand at the plate and watch the count go full, then either draw a walk, strike out, or make weak contact because he was in position where he had to swing at anything close. This year he worked at getting aggressive earlier in the count, while also improving his rhythm. The result was a drop in strikeouts, maintained walk rates, a spike in his average, and a bit more power.
The Pirates originally drafted Moroff as a shortstop, but moved him to second base due to defensive limitations. He doesn’t have the best defense at second base, but showed improvements at the position this year after working with Gift Ngoepe. He also played some shortstop and moved to third base at the end of the year, aiming to give him some versatility. That versatility will be good, as Moroff has a lot of competition next year. Alen Hanson looks to be ahead of him on the second base depth charts, although both have worked at third base, and could break in to the majors as utility players. The extra positions will give Moroff plenty of playing time, and won’t block him behind Hanson.
As for whether Moroff could be a starter, that would depend on whether he can pass Hanson. The defense would have to improve, and he’d have to repeat the offensive success in the upper levels. He makes solid contact to the gaps, has some speed, and the plate patience is only stronger with his aggressive approach early. His best path in the majors might be a utility infielder with a chance at splitting time at second with Hanson, especially if Hanson’s platoon problems remain. Moroff could get a shot at making the majors at some point in 2016 as bench depth.