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To recap the countdown so far:

20. Willy Garcia, RF
19. Clay Holmes, RHP
18. Mitch Keller, RHP

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.

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30 COMMENTS

  1. Frazier and Moroff are both gamers and overachievers…good qualities to have…similar to a player like Brock Holt. Moroff can hit – and I was surprised by his gap power when I saw him play a couple of times last year. Give that these two, and Hanson, have all been in the system for a few years and they are all 22 or older, I don’t understand why the Pirates don’t give these guys a legitimate shot the second base spot in the Spring……at least one of them has to better than Rodriguez…

  2. Madden had a long live interview with Walker at 5:30pm today on 105.9. he will probably repeat it this week and have it on TV tonight. Very interesting responses by Walker to direct questions about negotiations, arbitration, position changes, desire to stay, FO additions at the deadline, Mets chances. If you can find it I highly recommend.

  3. Moroff was a good draft and was very decent the first couple years. Last year he took off offensively, but the defensive play at 2B went down. If he repeats his play in 2016 and improves the D, he will put pressure on Alen Hanson. Hanson has had a few problems along the way so he is easy to dislike. But, then the Pirates fired the Manager he had the verbal disagreement with at Altoona, so what does that say? Maybe something, maybe nothing. I always thought a part of the attitude was the discontent within himself on his own defensive lapses at SS. He was moved back to 2B in 2015 and became the Best Defensive 2B in the International League according to Baseball America.

    He has all of the tools and in greater quantity and quality than Moroff or Frazier. He also has been a leadoff hitter exclusively since at least 2012, so he has that edge also. Gregory Polanco counts him as one of his best friends, so I wonder whether he has problems or whether he just plays the game very hard, and cannot stand failure.

    • I’m pretty sure in the last 2 seasons Moroff has lead both leagues (FSL and EL) in fielding percentage among qualified 2nd basemen. Can someone clarify what defensive issues are being referenced here, especially at 2B?

      • must be his r-a-n-g-e. He can catch everything he gets to but if he ain’t got range he don’t get the metrics.

    • Hanson’s problems stemmed mostly from Carlos Garcia and his style. And I heard here that he wasn’t the only unhappy player. He did let it show in several occasions that I witnessed, which obviously wasn’t the way to deal with it.

  4. Will Moroff start the season in Indy? His performance last year says he should but the infield looks crowded in Indy and innings are going to be tough to come by. Maybe they rotate him and Hanson amongst 2nd, SS, and 3B but is that really the best way to develop a full time 2B?

  5. he’d have to repeat the offensive success in the upper levels.

    Well, I sure don’t see where Hanson has done this. In fact, he has gotten worse.

    • Based on one age 22 season in AAA?

      He played worse at Altoona than he did at Bradenton when he was first promoted there in 2013, too. Then had a good full season in 2014.

      How about we see how he does this year in AAA before declaring him worse.

      I have my doubts any of the Hanson/Frazier/Moroff trio make the team out of ST.

    • This is the benefit prospects get when they break out early and get promoted aggressively…conventional prospect knowledge says you keep assuming progression will come, due to youth.

      But there’s a reason most outlets outside of Pittsburgh have cooled on Hanson, and that’s because he hasn’t really shown the signs of growth you’re looking for. Still bad from the right side, still marginal discipline, still shaky with quality breaking stuff. 23 is far from “old” in prospect terms, but we’re at the point where you better at least be seeing signs of improvement.

      • Good point. BA doesn’t even have Hanson in its top 10 anymore.
        (link won’t paste for whatever reason). For me, I’m still high on Hanson, but admittedly its because of his breakout with West Virginia where he looked like he was the better prospect than Polanco.

  6. having watched all three play..i would rank Frazier ahead of Moroff followed by Hansen. Moroff has good gap power. Hansen plays lazy and is not a good base
    runner.

    • Like you, I have seen all 3.

      Hanson, to me, only has the edge in defense. Other than that, I don’t see what there is to like about him.

      But, I have to trust our scouts who know more than me.

      • Idk, might just be that Hanson is at a higher level (AAA) at this point.

        Wouldnt surprise me if you asked our scouts and got an honest answer if they werent more excited about Frazier/Moroff than Hanson. At least overall, since Hanson’s defense at 2B is solid and has speed.

        I think its totally fair to, right now, feel like longterm someone not named Hanson is the full time starter at 2B. Frazier has me convinced he could handle 2B fine and upgrade the offense over Hanson.

    • Of the three, I’d guess Moroff’s floor is probably the highest, but Hanson’s ceiling is also probably the highest due to the raw physical tools. Hanson just also has the most bust potential. Frazier is somewhere in between.

      I guess when you rank them you have to weigh upside and risk, and it seems Tim and Co. have, overall, weighed Hanson’s much higher upside over Moroff’s and Fraizer’s lower risks.

      • I’d flip Frazier and Moroff.

        Underpowered prospects with marginal contact ability but excellent patience are a really, really tough profile to translate. Think Jaff Decker and Robbie Grossman…and even those two have/had better raw than Moroff. Big league pitchers generally can throw the ball over the plate when they want to, and a lack of power gives them no reason to work the corners. For perspective, only two qualified hitters last year posted walk rates above 10% and Isolated power numbers below .150, a level Moroff doesn’t come close to projecting.

        Without a big improvement in power and/or contact, Moroff is a long shot to be an average big league hitter.

            • I thought awhile back you really like Moroff. Then came the adoration for Diaz/Hanson.

              Its okay Dejan, even the Donald flip flops. 🙂

              • Nah, I’ve never been much of a Moroff fan and I’m one of the few who vocally supports Diaz *over* Hanson.

                Also not sure if these continued DK quips are a compliment… 😉

        • I actually had a hard time deciding between Moroff and Frazier for highest floor, but I settled on Moroff because he’s actually showed more power than Frazier to this point in their careers and because Frazier is about a year and a half older and at the same level, which made me buy Moroff’s average a bit more moving forward, but Frazier is a better/more versatile defender, and his K% is ridiculously low, so I can see the argument for him, too.

  7. I just feel real good for this guy who until this past season,
    us less knowledgeable folks just went “who?”

    Just had a crazy good season at Altoona this year and
    became a fan favorite.

    Hopefully the success continues this year.

    Could we see him in Pittsburgh in September?

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