Prospect Showdown: Colin Moran vs Kris Bryant

photo courtesy of minorleagueball.com

photo courtesy of minorleagueball.com

Players like Aaron Judge, Michael Lorenzen and Brian Ragira will no doubt have their moments over the course of the 2013 season, but there’s no denying that the top two college bats are North Carolina’s Colin Moran and San Diego’s Kris Bryant. Coincidentally, both play the same position, and both should be top ten picks come July.

But which player is the better prospect?

Before we get into that, let’s take a look at how Moran and Bryant stack up against each other in a few different areas.

High School

Moran put together a nice high school run at the prestigious Iona Prep School in New York and was named a conference All-Star on numerous occasions, but he can’t come close to the kind of sensation that Bryant created at Bonanza High in Las Vegas, home to some of high school baseball’s most talented stars (Bryce Harper and Joey Gallo) over the past few years. Bryant was named a high-school All-American by Baseball America, AFLAC and USA Today. He was also a three-time All-State player. He was selected by the Blue Jays in the 18th-round of the 2010 MLB Draft, but chose to attend USD. Moran, like his former teammate Dustin Ackley, went undrafted out of high school, despite coming from a legendary baseball background. His uncle is B.J. Surhoff.

Freshman Year

Both players featured prominently for their teams as freshman, with Bryant winning not only WCC Freshman of the Year, but also WCC Player of the Year. Not to be outdone, Moran also won conference Freshman of the Year in the ACC, and beat out Bryant and a slew of others for Baseball America’s Freshman of the Year honor. Here’s the numbers they put up as rookies.

Moran: .335/.442/.540, 20 2B, 2 3B, 9 HR, 71 RBI, 46 R, 47:33 BB:K, 2 SB
Bryant: .365/.482/.599, 17 2B, 1 3B, 9 HR, 36 RBI, 57 R, 33:55 BB:K, 18 SB

While Bryant’s Torero squad suffered through a miserable 22-31 season, Moran’s Tar Heels went 48-14 and made it all the way to the College World Series.

Sophomore Year

Roles were reversed in 2012 as Moran took a backseat to Bryant. It didn’t help that Moran missed more than 20 games with an injury to his right-hand. When he was able to make it into the lineup he performed very well, hitting .365, although it was clear that the hand injury sapped some of his power and he finished the year with just three homers. Bryant, on the other hand (no pun intended to Moran), blossomed into his powerful frame, slugging 14 long-balls, along the way guiding San Diego to it’s best record (40-17) since 2008. For the second consecutive season, Bryant was named to the All-WCC First Team and he was named a First-Team All-American by Baseball America. Moran missed out on any conference honors due to the excessive time he missed on the field. Here are the numbers Bryant and Moran put up as sophomores.

Moran: .365/.434/.494, 11 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 35 RBI, 30 R, 21:24 BB:K, 1 SB
Bryant: .366/.483/.671, 17 2B, 3 3B, 14 HR, 57 RBI, 59 R, 39:38 BB:K, 9 SB

Heading into their junior campaigns, there’s no doubt that Bryant and Moran are head-and-shoulders above the rest of the college crop of hitters. But which is the better prospect?

Let’s take a deeper look and break down which is the most talented at each criteria.

Hitting (for average)

While Bryant’s .366 career average narrowly bests Moran’s lifetime mark of .347, the race between the two sluggers is closer than it appears. One only needs to look to Moran’s sensational freshman campaign, in which he racked up 83 hits, 31 of which were of the extra-base variety. Still, in the end this category goes to Bryant, who has proven to be the most consistent hitter in the college ranks the past two years. Even more impressive than Bryant’s lifetime average is the fact that in two years, spanning over 400 at-bats, he has hit into only ONE double play.

Edge: Bryant

Hitting (for power)

Again, this category appears destined to go in favor of Bryant, who has 23 career homers, to Moran’s 12. Factor in Moran’s hand injury last year and once again it becomes closer. Not close enough, however. Even with the missed time, Moran had just eight more at-bats as a collegian than Bryant. And toss in the six dingers that Moran slugged in the Cape Cod League this past summer, against top-notch competition and I’d say we’re about even. Except not really. At 6-3, 180 Moran is really more of a gap-to-gap hitter, while the larger Bryant (6-5, 205) has a classic swing prone to home runs.

Edge: Bryant

Plate Discipline

Finally! A category that Moran has a real shot in. Actually, this one might be the biggest landslide in the area of hitting. Moran has proven time and time again that he has above-average plate discipline. And while that doesn’t always translate to the professional level, it’s hard to argue with an 81:60 walk to strikeout ratio over close to 120 games. Bryant is no slouch either, racking up 85 walks in 121 games, but he also has well over 100 strikeouts. This one goes for Moran easily.

Edge: Moran

Arm Strength

Considering both players man the hot corner, arm strength is key. There’s a huge difference between third baseman with cannons and those without. Those in the scouting community tend to agree that Moran has the better arm, one well suited for the left side of the infield, and we’re inclined to agree with that assessment. This one is in the bag for Moran.

Edge: Moran

Overall Defensive Ability

Scouts and experts seem to agree that Bryant will be a perfectly adequate third baseman at the big-league level. Good for him. Those same people in the know are of the opinion that Colin Moran has the ability to be an above-average, Gold Glove caliber third baseman. Period.

Edge: Moran

Speed

Neither player is going to win many footraces, and despite Moran’s size advantage (20 pounds less than Bryant), Bryant actually gets the edge here. As evidenced by his 28 career stolen bases, he’s not only possesses better-than-expected speed, but he also knows when and where to pick his spots.

Edge: Bryant

Overall

For those who can count, that puts Moran and Bryant on equal footing, with three categories apiece. Granted, speed isn’t and should never be an important part of either player’s game, so we can essentially toss that category, giving Moran the 3-to-2 edge. Still, will it make Moran more integral to his team that he has superior defensive ability? Or will Bryant’s superior potential at the plate make him more valuable?

In the end, we’re going with Bryant. From his rock-star high-school days, Bryant has simply exerted his will over pitchers to a degree that Moran has not. He’s also excelled at an incredibly high level for a team that hasn’t had as much supporting talent as Moran’s Tar Heel squads. Count former teammates Dustin Ackley and Kyle Seager and more recent additions Skye Bolt among those that have helped boost Moran’s draft stock. Bryant hasn’t had any of that, and he’s still put up All-American type numbers.

For the time being and barring any massive injuries, we’re throwing our support behind Kris Bryant as the superior prospect and bestowing upon him the honor of top college prospect in this year’s draft.

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