When Colin Moran was growing up in Rye, he begged his older brother and his friends to let him play baseball with them.
Now the big boys are eager for Moran to join them. The University of North Carolina third baseman and Iona Prep alum is considered a lock to be among the top 10 players -- and possibly the first overall -- selected in Major League Baseball's first-year player draft, which begins Thursday night.
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In his latest mock draft, ESPN's Keith Law has predicted that the Houston Astros will use the first pick on Moran, and few mock drafts have him going lower than seventh -- to the Boston Red Sox. Baseball America projects the Cleveland Indians to select the 6-foot-3, 215-pound lefthander with the fifth pick.
Scouts like Moran's discipline at the plate and his swing, and he's made significant strides on defense, said John Manuel, editor-in-chief of Baseball America.
"The consensus is that he's one of the top five hitters in this draft -- and if he's not one of the top five hitters, he's one of the top 10 hitters," Manuel said. "He's one of the safer bets of the draft because he has performed on a high level at a good college program, and that control of the strike zone -- he has three times as many walks as strikeouts -- that's a good sign."
Manuel added that Moran should reach the majors within a year and a half.
"If you draft him in the top 10 picks, you believe he will not need much time to matriculate in the minor leagues," Manuel said.
Moran, 20, is a junior at North Carolina, which this year has reached the Super Regionals -- college baseball's sweet 16 -- and is the No. 1 overall seed in the postseason tournament.
Moran is hitting .348 with 13 home runs and 86 RBIs. He leads the nation in RBIs, is fifth in runs scored (64) and third in walks (60).
On Tuesday, Moran was named one of three finalists for the Golden Spikes award, presented to the nation's best amateur player.
Moran was unavailable for comment, but his mother, Diane, said he's been doing a good job of handling the pressure of preparing for this week's Super Regionals while the draft looms large.
"Better than his father and I, that's for sure," Diane Moran joked. "He's very steady and very levelheaded, and just wants to get his business done."
She recalled how as a child, her son wanted to play ball with kids four years older and even then he was pushed to be his best. According to Diane Moran, the older kids would tell him, "'If you want to play with us, you have to be as good as us.'"
Diane Moran said her son doesn't have a preference about which team drafts him. "He's just thrilled to have the opportunity to play professionally," she said.
Being a high draft pick means a large payday is in Colin Moran's future. Last season's top five picks received signing bonuses ranging from $3 million to $6 million.
If Colin Moran is indeed the top pick in the draft, he won't even be the first person in his family to achieve the feat. His uncle is Rye native B.J. Surhoff, the top pick in the 1985 draft who enjoyed a 19-year major league career with Milwaukee, Baltimore and Atlanta.
Because of his relationship to Surhoff, Colin Moran spent time in major league locker rooms and meeting star players as a kid.
The hot prospect's genetic link to pro sports doesn't end with Surhoff. His brother, Brian, pitches for the Seattle Mariners' Triple-A affiliate. His uncle, Rich Surhoff, pitched briefly for the Philadelphia Phillies and Texas Rangers. And his late grandfather, Dick Surhoff, played for the Knicks and was a standout pitcher on the U.S. fast-pitch softball team.
Fred Gallo, the longtime baseball coach at Iona Prep who retired after last season, said Colin Moran was always dedicated to improving his game.
"He loves the game obviously, but knows the price to pay to be good at something is you've got to be consumed by it and you have to constantly do it," Gallo said. "That's one of the main reasons he is where he is."