The Marlins showed this season that they aren't afraid to accelerate top young talent to the Major Leagues. Jose Fernandez made the Opening Day roster and never looked back. Several of Miami's top hitting prospects, including Derek Dietrich, Jake Marisnick, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich, also arrived at Marlins Park earlier than anticipated.
Colin Moran, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, appears to be on the fast track as well. The Marlins sent him straight to low Class A Greensboro after he signed for $3,516,500, the second-highest bonus in franchise history behind Josh Beckett's $3,625,000 (part of a $7 million big league contract in 1999). After Moran acquitted himself well in his pro debut, batting .299/.354/.442, Miami challenged him again by sending him to the Arizona Fall League.
"I'm just excited to be here and obviously the talent out here is really good," Moran said. "I'm looking to just keep learning and keep getting better."
The second-highest third baseman picked in the 2013 Draft pick playing in the AFL -- No. 2 overall choice Kris Bryant (Cubs) is on the Mesa Solar Sox -- Moran is starting at third for the Glendale Desert Dogs. He went just 5-for-27 (.185) with a double in his first eight games, though he continued to display his mastery of the strike zone by drawing nine walks and fanning just twice in 36 plate appearances.
The best pure hitter available in the 2013 Draft, Moran has excellent hand-eye coordination and strike-zone discipline. At 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, he should have at least average power. He has below-average speed and range, though he has the hands and arm to make plays at the hot corner.
Moran has good bloodlines, too, as his uncle B.J. Surhoff was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1985 Draft and played 19 years in the Majors. Another uncle, Rich Surhoff, pitched briefly in the big leagues, and Colin's brother, Brian, has reached Triple-A in the Mariners' system.
Moran said there's not one particular area of his game that he's trying to hone in Arizona.
"I feel like I need to work on everything," he said. "I'm still adjusting to the pro game, just playing every day. As much as people talk about the grind, it is a grind. I'm just trying to learn and pick people's brains."
Using the AFL as a springboard, it's possible that Moran could begin his first full pro season in Double-A Jacksonville. Nevertheless, he's trying not to worry about timetables and will let his play dictate how fast he moves up.
"Obviously, everyone wants to get up there as soon as possible," Moran said. "I'm still just trying to learn and get better. I have a lot to work on before I get up there and I'm just trying to master skills and get up there soon ... That's always exciting to hear stuff like that, but at the same time, I still understand that I still have a little while to go before I get up there and I still have a lot to work on."
Marlins hitters in the AFL
• Shortstop Danny Black batted .309/.369/.391 in 2012 but dropped to .200/.284/.260 this season while being hampered by an oblique injury. A 14th-round pick from Oklahoma in 2010, he projects more as a utilityman than a regular. He's a contact hitter with average speed and defensive ability and good instincts.
• Outfielder Brent Keys has battled hamstring injuries since signing as a 17th-round pick out of a California high school in 2009, but he also has batted .315 as a pro. He led the high Class A Florida State League in hitting (.346) and on-base percentage (.418) this year. He offers little power but has above-average speed when healthy and is capable of playing all three outfield positions, seeing most of his time in left.
Marlins pitchers in the AFL
• The ninth overall pick in the 2012 Draft, Andrew Heaney can make a case for being the best left-handed starting pitching prospect in baseball. A strained last muscle limited the Oklahoma State product at the beginning of the season, but he came back to put together a 34-inning scoreless streak and reach Double-A. Extremely polished, he uses a slider as his go-to pitch and also can show a plus fastball and solid changeup.
• Left-hander Edgar Olmos made his big league debut in 2013, posting a 7.20 ERA in five relief appearances. A third-round pick out of a California high school in 2008, he relies on his mid-90s fastball. His slider can give him a second above-average pitch at times, though he lacks consistency and can run into control problems.
• Right-hander Colby Suggs could be one of the first players from the 2013 Draft to reach the Majors, as the supplemental second-rounder from Arkansas shot to high Class A in his pro debut. His out pitch is a mid-90s fastball with heavy sink, and he backs it up with a hard slurve. If he throws strikes against advanced hitters, he could pitch for the Marlins by the end of next season.
• Right-hander Nick Wittgren has been spectacular since joining the Marlins as a ninth-rounder out of Purdue in 2012. In 75 pro games, he has recorded a 0.91 ERA, 39 saves and a 110-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 89 innings. His deceptive delivery allows his 91-93 mph to jump on hitters and look quicker. He uses a hard three-quarters breaking ball as his second pitch. More of a shortstop in high school, he didn't become a full-time pitcher until 2010 at Parkland (Ill.) JC.