MAX MOROFF, SHORTSTOP
|Born: May 13, 1993
Drafted: 16th Round, 496th Overall, 2012
How Acquired: Draft
High School: Trinity Prep, FL
WTM’s PLAYER PROFILE
|Moroff played all the infield positions in high school and has the arm for short. The Pirates moved him to second in his third year, when he was on the same team as Adam Frazier, but he eventually became a utility player. The defensive metrics suggest that he’s a good defensive player at second and short, but the Pirates haven’t seem entirely convinced of that. Moroff has only about average speed and, while the Pirates had him run a lot in the minors, he’s not a good base stealer. His primary asset is a good bat and a good eye. Over his first several years, he tended to take a lot of pitches before swinging, which often left him behind in the count. Moroff had a commitment to Central Florida, but signed with the Pirates shortly before the deadline for three times the slot amount.
Moroff had a strong debut, serving as the regular SS in the GCL after he signed. He showed a good, line-drive bat and excellent plate discipline.
Moroff was the West Virginia shortstop. He had an uneven season, getting on base and showing decent pop, but he didn’t hit the ball well with any consistency. In fact, other than June, in which he hit .304, his highest average in any month was .241 in May. He largely collapsed in August and September, striking out 38 times in 115 AB. Hitters with his profile — high walk and strikeout totals and modest or less power — tend to struggle increasingly as they move up. In fact, Moroff’s walk rate declined as the year went along; in July and August it was about half what it was the first three months. He struggled against RHPs, batting only 237/340/319 against them. Moroff committed 33 errors in 110 games at short, which is high but not alarmingly so.
Moroff spent the season as the second baseman at Bradenton, with Adam Frazier at short. He had largely the same season offensively as the previous year, except his walk and K rates got a little worse and most of his HRs turned into doubles. He stole a lot more bases, but also got caught a lot. Moroff’s hitting was very steady throughout the season, with an OPS between .616 and .711 every month. He didn’t have a large platoon split. He played well defensively.
Like Adam Frazier, the Pirates moved Moroff up to Altoona despite his so-so season at the plate and, like Frazier, Moroff had a breakout season. He credited the improvement to getting more aggressive early in counts, although he still had a very high walk rate. He also cut his K rate substantially. Like Frazier, Moroff’s improvement was fueled partly by a high BABIP, .365 in Moroff’s case. He hit better from the left side, with an .880 OPS vs. .745 from the right side. Late in the season, he seemed to be trying to hit for more power and started striking out more as well as walking more, and batted only .228 in August and September. He played mostly at second, but started a dozen games at short and eleven at third.
Moroff spent nearly all the season at Indianapolis. He started 60 games at second, 37 at third and 17 at short. At the plate, Moroff led the International League by a huge margin in walks, but his K rate shot upward to nearly one every three ABs. He showed decent power for a middle infielder. He got a brief callup and struck out in each of two pinch-hit ABs. He hit a little better left-handed (.731 OPS) then right-handed (.668). The Pirates professed not to be concerned about Moroff’s strikeouts, saying he was having quality ABs, but he didn’t get a September callup.
Moroff had a very interesting season. He opened back in AAA and had a remarkable power outburst, battling for the International League in HRs through the early season. The outburst came with a small increase in his already-very-high K rate, but he also maintained his extremely high walk rate. He got a brief, injury-related callup in early May, then came back up for good at the beginning of June and stayed in the majors except for a week and a half in mid-August. Moroff mostly struggled through the end of July, probably not helped by getting very limited playing time. In 70 plate appearances, he had a 131/229/197 line through the end of July. In the same number of PAs, he had a 271/377/458 line in August and September. Obviously, he struck out at a very high rate, but he had a good walk rate and showed good power late in the season. In the minors, Moroff played short the most, but also saw a lot of time at second and a little at third. In the majors, he started 13 games at second, ten at short and three at third. It was interesting that Moroff got time at short over Adam Frazier, as Moroff moved to second in the minors so Frazier could stay at short. According to UZR, Moroff played very well at all three infield positions, but the sample sizes were extremely small.
Moroff spent the second half of April and first three weeks of July with the Pirates, but otherwise spent the year in AAA. His hitting dropped off from the previous year, although he continued, at both levels, to draw walks and show some power. In the majors, he got about two-thirds of his time in the field at second, the rest at short. In AAA he played short, third and second, in that order of frequency, and also got into a few games in left and right. His usage obviously was impacted by Kevin Newman and Kevin Kramer, who got the bulk of the time at short and second, respectively.
Moroff’s chance to establish himself as a major league utility player probably got torpedoed by the presence of Sean Rodriguez. With Adam Frazier struggling both in the majors and in AAA, and with Rodriguez completely collapsing, Moroff was the logical option for the Pirates as a utility infielder for much of the season. The team’s obsession with Rodriguez, though, kept Moroff from getting the chance. By the late season, Frazier had gotten hot, and Newman and Kramer were in the majors. Even then, the Pirates called up Pablo Reyes in September and not Moroff. The natural inference is that Reyes has passed Moroff on the depth chart. Whether that means Moroff’s spot on the 40-man roster is in jeopardy over the off-season remains to be seen. By the end of the season, there certainly were quite a few less useful players on the roster.
|2019: Major league minimum
2018: Major league minimum
|Signing Bonus: $300,000
MiLB Debut: 2012
MLB Debut: 7/31/2016
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2023
Rule 5 Eligible: Protected
Added to 40-Man: 11/20/2015
Options Remaining: 0 (USED: 2016, 2017, 2018)
MLB Service Time: 1.008
|June 6, 2012: Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 16th round, 496th overall pick; signed on July 13.
November 20, 2015: Contract purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates.