The Philadelphia Phillies showed a lot of confidence in Mickey Moniak when they selected him first overall in the 2016 MLB draft. Although signability may have factored into the decision to take Moniak, the bottom line is that general manager Matt Klentak and the Phillies organization liked the then-18-year-old’s tools. They believed that he would be someone that could help progress the rebuild and be a real contributor in future seasons.
Fast-forward a few years to 2020 and the idea of Moniak being a key contributor is a forgotten concept to many Phillies fans. Early struggles in the So-Cal product’s career deflated some evaluators. The word “bust” has definitely been thrown around in discussions about Moniak.
And while it is true that living up to his initial hype and becoming what an organization would hope to get out of a No. 1 pick now seems unlikely, giving up on Moniak completely may not be the right move.
After really struggling in his first two full seasons of pro-ball in 2017 and 2018, Moniak made big strides for Double-A Reading this past season. He was able to unlock some gap power, hitting 28 doubles and a staggering 13 triples in just 119 games. Moniak also hit 11 home runs in 2019, which was a career-high.
His .303 on-base percentage was definitely not great, although Moniak did draw a career-high 33 walks. Being more selective at the plate is something that he worked on this past season and will continue to work on going forward. Plate discipline, taking balls and waiting for the right pitch to drive are perhaps the least developed parts of Moniak’s game right now.
Despite some of the on-base struggles, it is pretty impressive that the 21-year-old Moniak was able to do what he did offensively as one of the youngest players in Double-A.
And this is all without mentioning what could be Moniak’s best skill on the field – his defense.
Adam Haseley was a teammate of Moniak’s on the Reading Fightin’ Phils to start the 2019 season. Haseley was soon put on a fast-track to the major leagues as the Phillies lost players due to injury and a suspension, and he eventually became a regular center fielder in Philadelphia. Haseley projects to be the starting center fielder for the Phillies on Opening Day 2020 as well.
But when Haseley and Moniak were on the same club to start the season, it was pretty evident who the better defensive center fielder was.
Moniak has excellent range and instincts that would allow him to be a legitimately good center fielder at the major league level. He is a gifted athlete with speed that allows him to track down balls that not many other players can get to. His range would also play up at a corner outfield spot, as shown on plays like this:
He also has a fairly strong and accurate arm that helped him record eight outfield assists in 2019. Moniak is able to make plays with his arm like this on a consistent basis:
2020 and beyond
Because he is so young and still relatively raw in the batter’s box, it is not out of the realm of possibility that Moniak begins the 2020 season in Double-A once again. Sending him to Reading to work on plate discipline and other fine-tuning before sending him to Triple-A Lehigh Valley may be the safest way to go. Unless things go very wrong, it is expected that Moniak will most likely end up in Triple-A to finish the season if he does not start there.
Maturing as a player is a big key to Moniak’s 2020 season. Drawing walks and finding the right pitch to hit is something he needs to keep learning how to do. He will continue to work on that aspect of his game into this season but will still most likely not be outstanding at it.
Moniak will keep playing really good defense no matter what level he is assigned to. The defensive skills he possesses will be there to see in 2020 and will be present going forward as well.
The current skillset Moniak has should be good enough to get him to the MLB at some point with some maturation. His defense combined with an OPS in the mid-.700s should be strong enough to get him to the bigs as a defensive substitute and possible platoon outfielder.
While there is most definitely value in that kind of player, the question of whether Moniak can become an everyday starter will come down to his progression with the bat. If he cannot fix some of his overaggressive tendencies at the plate then his contributions may just come as a part-time player.
But if he can figure it out, the future may be a little more promising for Moniak than some currently think.
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