Marlins optimistic about top pick 3B Colin Moran

The Miami Marlins have been missing a big bat at third base since Miguel Cabrera moved to Detroit in 2008.

And while it’s tough to tell how Colin Moran will perform the next few years in the minors, the North Carolina star could one day be the Marlins’ long-term answer at the hot corner.

The Marlins selected Moran with the sixth overall pick in the MLB Draft on Thursday night, landing the Atlantic Coast Conference’s player of the year.

“He’s one of the premier college bats in the country,” Marlins vice president of scouting Stan Meek said. “We really thought he would go in front of us. Fits a need but also fits from ability standpoint.”

A junior from Rye, N.Y., the left-handed-hitting Moran has a .357 batting average and .478 on-base percentage with 13 home runs, 84 RBI and 69 runs for North Carolina (52-8) this season. Marlins fans can see Moran play this weekend on TV, as the Tar Heels host South Carolina in a best-of-three Super Regional.

Moran was watching the draft on television Thursday with his teammates, parents and friends.

“It is something that I’ve always dreamed of,” said Moran, who was not drafted out of high school. “Right before the pick I kind of had an idea that I was going to get picked. I hadn’t talked to the Marlins too much. I couldn’t be more excited to be picked by them.”

The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Moran has been a decorated collegiate player, hitting .365 as a sophomore, and he was also named Baseball America’s freshman of the year in 2011 after hitting .335 with an ACC-leading 71 RBI.

Meek sees Moran as a player that has gap power and will hit a lot of doubles in spacious Marlins Park.

“He’s always been a hitter before he’s shown power,” Moran said. “Rather than a power hitter, he’s a hitter with power. I always liked that in a kid.”

Fox Sports national baseball analyst Kiley McDaniel agrees with Meek’s assessment of Moran. McDaniel thinks Moran could top out at 20 home runs but will crank out singles and doubles.

“He has a chance to be a well-above-average hitter,” McDaniel said. “He has a polished bat.”

Moran impressed scouts the past two summers in the Cape Cod League. In 2011, he was an All-Star in the wood-bat league. And in 2012, he led all Cape Cod League players with 42 RBI.

It was important for him to show how he would hit top-notch college pitchers while in the box with a wood bat, and that left Meek impressed.

“He doesn’t chase much,” said Meek, who watched about 60 of Moran’s at-bats on the Cape in 2012. “He’s not a free-swinger. He is very knowledgeable with the strike zone.”

Moran grew up in New York and followed the Yankees for years, despite the fact that his uncle, B.J. Surhoff, played for Milwaukee, Baltimore and Atlanta from 1987-2005. In Miami, Moran could one day learn from longtime Yankee and Marlins hitting coach Tino Martinez.

“I couldn’t be more excited to meet him, talk to him, pick his brain about hitting,” Moran said. “He was one of my favorite, if not my favorite, player growing up.”

Moran is a junior, so he has the option to sign with the Marlins or return to Chapel Hill, N.C., for the 2014 season. McDaniel said that Moran’s signing bonus for his slot position will be about $3.5 million.

“I think we’ll get this done,” Meek said.