Just making the cut as our first featured prospect is Brian Moran who shows us that the Angel farm system is so lacking in depth, that the Halos need to steal prospects from the Mariners.
Position: RP Highest Level: AAA
Bats: L Throws: L Height: 6'3" Weight: 210
Age: 25 Born: 9/30/1988
2013 Rank: Unranked
2013 Season Stats
AAA: 62.2 IP, 2-5, 3.45 ERA, 70 H, 20 BB, 4 HR, 85 SO, 31.9 GB%, 2.42 FIP, .407 BABIP
Fastball = C
Moran throws mid to upper 80’s. Normally, this wouldn't merit a grade above a “D” or an “F” in this department. However, Moran is left-handed and creates quite a bit of deception in his delivery, thus making his fastball play up as if it were thrown harder. Already a tall 6’3, Moran takes an extremely extended stride toward home plate, which allows his to release the ball a lot closer to home than your average reliever, making his 87 mph fastball seem quite a bit harder. Not a bad idea if you can pull it off.
Offspeed Pitches = B
Moran throws a “true” slider against LHB. This is a pitch that would absolutely be murdered against RHB unless it were used in a backdoor manner, but luckily for Moran, he’s a lefty specialist. By “true” slider, we mean this off-speed pitch shouldn’t be mistaken for a hard curve, as many sliders tend to be, this pitch floats up to the plate and offers considerable horizontal movement rather than the typical cut and drop of many off-speed pitches. It’s actually quite similar to former Angels LHP Scott Downs’ slider, except Moran throws it even more softly.
Control = B
Moran has never had an issue with free-passes in his minor league career. I really like him in that he’s a straight to business type of reliever. He won’t rely on gimmicks or advanced scouting to get LHB out, he trusts his stuff and attacks hitters. It’s a far-cry from many hyped Angels relievers but Dipoto has done a decent job of bringing in pitchers capable of throwing strikes.
Command = A
This is where Moran can be truly effective. He puts his fastball and off-speed pitches exactly where he wants them. He won’t throw straight down the middle, when he misses off the plate it’s because he wants hitters to chase, which is one of the many reasons he records routinely high strikeout numbers despite not having overpowering stuff. This is particularly exciting in that Moran will use his slider under the hands or let it float off the plate, which gives lefties a couple different looks.
Mechanics = B
He reminds me again of a longer version of Scott Downs. His leg-kick and balance pre-delivery are both almost identical to Downs. Despite having a tremendously long-stride, Moran’s upper body remains compact for someone of his size. This works to his advantage in that there aren’t a ton of moving parts. His release is what I’d consider low three-quarters, again, very similar to Scott Downs and particularly effective against LHB as the ball seems to be not only coming from behind them but also from 54 feet instead of 60 feet 6 inches (again, long stride). His finish isn’t particularly off-balance and he’s ready to field his position. This makes him a potential defensive asset on plays up the middle given his size, but it also helps prevent injury by allowing him to finish in a position that isn’t foreign to his body.
Performance = B
Solid numbers in AAA for the Mariners last season, Moran posted a three and a half ERA with 2.9 free passes per 9 innings and a 12.2 K/9 ratio. Keep in mind, this was facing RHB as well. The Angels have no intentions of deploying Moran against RHB off the bat as Scott Downs did as a setup man. Moran will be a lefty-specialist and his numbers against LHB were nothing short of outstanding (.235 BAA).
Projection = C
The thing about relievers, you can’t trust their age or development. Some of the best relievers never become effective at the major league level until their 30’s. Most effective relievers only remain effective for 2-3 seasons anyway. It’s such a dynamic profession. Moran is already 25 and doesn’t throw particularly hard, so of course projection wouldn’t play him a fair hand. However, Moran looks to be ready for the major leagues as a lefty specialist and in that role, I think Moran will absolutely thrive. Who knows, maybe he could eventually grow into a setup role, but for right now, he’s exactly what the Angels need, a solid lefty-specialist to be deployed against the likes of Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo in Texas and Robinson Cano in Seattle.
Grade as a Prospect = C
Moran is clearly an above average prospect, as evidenced by him being plucked out of the Mariners system via the Rule V Draft. Then again, the Mariners didn't think highly enough of Moran within their organizational scope to protect him from the draft, thus making him an average prospect. The truth lies somewhere in between. Moran is a good southpaw reliever. He's deceptive, effective against lefties and young enough to log some key years in the majors. But every system has a promising left-handed relief prospect. The Angels, despite a poor graded farm system have a collection of them, which includes Robert Carson, Brandon Sisk, Buddy Boshers, Nick Maronde and Andrew Taylor. Still, Moran's K/9, BB/9, good splits against same-side hitters and closeness to the majors sets him apart from most other lefty relievers.
Estimated MLB Arrival Date = 2014
Moran’s placement to begin the year depends on a few factors. Would the Angels risk losing him since he was essentially acquired in the Rule V draft? Putting him in AAA at any time this year other than rehab would force the Angels to offer him back to his original team, Seattle, which the Mariners just may accept if it meant hurting their division foe the Angels. More likely, the Angels will keep Moran in their pen to serve his role of left-hand specialist.
2013 in Review*
The Angels snatched up Moran via trade in the Rule 5 draft this December. That already gives him a leg up on the competition to land the final bullpen spot in the Angels' roster. The utility he brings is potentially being death on lefties. He held left-handed batters to a .594 OPS last season, and that was while pitching in the PCL, where hitters have a real upper-hand. His fastball isn't impressive and his offspeed pitches are fringy, but he has a real deceptive delivery. That deception allowed him to post an eye-popping 12.21 K/9 rate. That didn't all come against lefties either as he still fanned 10+ per nine against righties as well.
Of course, Moran was left unprotected for a reason. He has been kicking around the Mariner farm system for years striking out scores of batters. He could very well be a classic Quadruple-A arm. He's too deceptive for minor league hitters to hit, but his stuff might not be good enough to sneak past big league hitters that aren't fooled by his delivery. If his stuff does play, the best he can hope for is to serve as a LOOGY. There just doesn't seem to be much of a chance he'll be anything more than that, even if he did have some success against righties in Triple-A last season. First things first though, Moran needs to beat out the stiff competition in camp which includes Buddy Boshers, Nick Maronde and Robert Carson. Andrew Taylor and Brandon Sisk could factor into that too if they are healthy. If Moran can beat out that crop for the LOOGY gig, then the Angels might really have stumbled upon something.
*As we do every year, the scouting reports and grades are provided by Scotty Allen while Garrett Wilson provides the 2013 in Review and Looking Ahead sections.