UNC sits atop national preseason polls for the 2013 season, but similar expectations can be found within the clubhouse. After a surprising early exit from the postseason a year ago, leading hitter Moran notes his personal goals are no different than the team goals.
“Personal goals – they are always the same,” the junior answered without hesitation. “ Just trying to lead us to Omaha and try to do whatever I can to get there. Junior year does not really change anything. It has been the same every year. Hopefully this year we will get back there.”
Moran missed a third of the 2012 season with a broken hand, which may have hindered his preseason awards entering this campaign. But make no mistake, the game's top talent evaluators have him pegged as one of the nation's best.
Moran was named a first team preseason All-America by Baseball America, which is chosen by Major League Baseball scouting directors.
Moran is a consensus first round pick for the MLB Draft in June, and Baseball America has him pegged as high as No. 6 overall, calling him: ‘The best pure hitter in the class.’
His offseason focus, much like Friday night ace Kent Emanuel and other teammates, was putting on some added muscle. “I just worked a lot,” Moran said. “I always work hard in the offseason. But I guess I changed (by adding) a little bit more weight but not losing anything when it comes to quickness. I think we had a good plan of showing how to get stronger and quicker.”
If Moran improves defensively with his lateral quickness, to go with his efficient glove and strong powerful arm, he will have a chance at contending for ACC Player of the Year and improving his stock with the Major League scouting departments.
After all, there's no doubt about his offensive talents. He batted .365 last season with a team-high .494 slugging percentage and .434 on-base percentage. This after posting comparable freshman year numbers (.335 AVG, .540 SLG, .442 OB).
The team returns many key components from last year's nationally seeded squad and has added a large freshmen class that will add depth with the position players and some will vie for immediate playing time and innings. “Competition is really strong,” Moran discussed. “We have a lot of depth everywhere pretty much. We have a lot of good freshmen and a lot of older guys that are coming into their own. Competition is good and hopefully we will have a big year.”
The Tar Heels open their season this weekend with a series against Seton Hall. That will be followed with another weekend series, hosting Stony Brook, and then a single mid-week game versus St. John's before heading to Houston for the much-anticipated Action College Classic at Minute Maid Park (against Rice, California and Texas A&M).
The Tar Heels are looking forward to facing players in another uniform and getting their season started. Will they be able to achieve their goals and meet the lofty preseason expectations? The performance and durability of the junior manning the hot corner will have a large part in determining their ultimate fate.