It might be a while before fans see Colin Moran, the Marlins' first-round pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, make his big league debut.
Moran, the third baseman Miami chose sixth overall in the '13 Draft, is taking it slow as he ascends the ranks of the organization. Although he did sustain a left knee injury that sidelined him for a few weeks at the beginning of this season, the Marlins have said that they are not rushing their No. 2 prospect -- one who's also ranked 43rd in baseball by MLB.com.
Moran's progress hasn't been stunted by anything except his age, really. He was only 20 when he was drafted after his junior season at the University of North Carolina. Now 21 years old, the 6-foot-4 left-handed hitter is playing for the Class A Advanced Jupiter Hammerheads, and he is hitting .272 in 45 games.
Moran is expected to be the Marlins' long-term solution at the hot corner.
"He was a young guy when we took him," Marlins vice president of scouting Stan Meek said. "He's doing fine, hitting around .270 in the Florida State League, which is notoriously not a hitter's league. But he's playing third base very well and I think he's basically right on schedule."
After he signed, there was a high expectation Moran would continue hitting like he did in college, where he accumulated an astounding 197 RBIs in 179 games for the Tar Heels and batted .346 with 25 homers.
But Moran's approach at the plate has always been more about contact than swinging for the fences. Since entering the Marlins' Minor League system last year, he has only connected for seven roundtrippers in 87 games.
While Moran progresses through the system, the Marlins have other players closer to the big leagues. Left-hander Andrew Heaney might be the first of their top prospects to make it to Miami. The 2012 first-rounder dazzled on the mound last season with a 1.60 ERA and a 9-3 record, earning him the 25th spot in MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list.
After reaching Double-A Jacksonville in his first full professional season, Heaney returned to the Suns for eight starts this year and even made one relief appearance. He went 4-2 with a 2.35 ERA in 53 2/3 innings before being promoted to Triple-A New Orleans.
Heaney is still impressing hitters in the Pacific Coast League, where he is 3-0 with a 2.74 ERA in 23 innings. If he continues on that path, he should be able to play in Marlins Park sometime this summer.
"We've got a nice staff in the Major Leagues, but you never have enough pitching," Meek said. "I think both of those guys are Major League prospects and hopefully future Major League players. And I think Heaney is really close on the cusp of the Major Leagues."
Before the Draft last season, Meek said that pitching would be an emphasis for the organization every June. Miami delivered on that in 2013, using 24 of its 42 picks on pitchers and signing all but eight of them. Two signees -- Trevor Williams and Colby Suggs -- were among the Marlins' Top 20 Prospects before the start of this season.
The right-handers joined Moran at Jupiter this season.
It might be easier for someone like Suggs to make the team as a member of the bullpen. The reliever -- whose 5-foot-11, 235-pound build has earned him the nickname "Bulldog" -- was a closer at the University of Arkansas, where he registered a 1.36 ERA in 79 2/3 innings.
As a pro, however, Suggs has struggled to keep runs off the board. He's still striking out a high number of batters -- 58 in 54 2/3 innings in the last two seasons -- but his ERA has jumped to 3.79. At Jupiter this season, he's 0-2 with a 4.28 ERA in 27 1/3 innings.
Williams has above-average control and a cleaned-up delivery that allows him to pitch downhill more. Should the 6-foot-3, 228-pounder continue to be aggressive and throw as well as he has -- he's posted a 2.36 ERA in 13 starts -- he is estimated to arrive in Miami in 2015.
Maria Torres is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less