The Philadelphia Phillies selected Mickey Moniak with the No. 1 pick in the 2016 MLB Draft out of La Costa Canyon High School in San Diego. In a weaker draft class, the Phillies selected Moniak with the first pick with the understanding that they could sign him to an underslot deal and have more to spend on assuring later picks signed and didn’t opt to instead attend college.
Over four years later, especially as Juan Soto and Ronald Acuna Jr. exhibit Hall of Fame-caliber talent for other National League East contenders, Moniak’s pace of development feels disappointing. The 22-year-old has yet to play above Double-A, and delivered a rather underwhelming .252/.303/.439 slash line in 2019, despite playing his home games at hitter-friendly FirstEnergy Stadium.
Moniak isn’t currently on the Phillies 2020 roster pool, and while it looks as though he’s eventually going to reach the majors, that may not happen until his mid-20s.
The Athletic‘s Keith Law appeared on Locked On Phillies Friday, and though he was prompted with the suggestion that Moniak maybe hasn’t been a complete disaster, the preeminent prospect expert pushed back on that assessment.
“I would actually say for a first overall pick, it’s a complete disaster,” Law said. “You’re looking at an extra outfielder, and that’s a disaster.
“You picked first overall…and yes, it was not a great draft class, but the rest of the top 10 includes Nick Senzel, who is a big leaguer…Ian Anderson, who is a top-50 prospect in baseball…Braxton Garrett, who now that he is healthy again is a top-50 prospect in baseball…Matt Manning, who is probably going to debut in the majors this year, he’s a top-30 prospect in baseball…A.J. Puk, who is going to be in Oakland’s rotation…that’s just the top 10. So I’m not saying they should have taken someone who wasn’t seen as a top-10 pick, they passed on a bunch of guys who were right there for them, who should have been considerations for No. 1 overall.”
Moniak did still check in as the No. 6 overall prospect in the Phillies organization in Phillies Nation‘s Top 20 Prospects countdown in February. However, while Phillies Nation‘s Ty Daubert did compliment the gap power that Moniak showed a season ago, he was critical of the former top pick’s patience at the plate. Moniak has just 94 walks to show for 1,671 plate appearances in his minor league career.
That Moniak still finds himself at No. 6 may be more indicative of the lack of depth that the Phillies system has beyond Alec Bohm and Spencer Howard, who are seemingly nearing graduation to the major leagues. Shortstop Luis Garcia checked in at No. 5, despite an extremely disappointing 2019 season that saw the 19-year-old hit just .186 with Single-A Lakewood.
With the benefit of hindsight, Law says that the most disappointing part about the Moniak selection is that even the best-case scenario with him wasn’t worthy of the No. 1 pick, in his opinion.
“They took a player who had far less upside – that was really my biggest criticism of Moniak.” Law continued. “It’s not that I thought Moniak was terrible, because I didn’t. If you go back and see what I wrote at the time about Moniak, I thought he was a perfectly fine prospect. And if they had taken him eighth in the draft, I would have said ‘Fine, it just didn’t work out.’ But you picked first, you know exactly who’s available to you and I think in that case they played it safe and they particularly fell in love with Moniak the person, rather than considering upside. When you pick first overall, you have to be going for the most upside you can possibly get, because that’s typically not available and you don’t want to think like you’re going to draft first overall again in the near future.
“And they didn’t do that. They played it extremely safe and took a low upside guy, and Moniak isn’t going to hit the upside even that he had. He’s not going to be able to play center field regularly in the majors. He has never been able to pick up off-speed stuff. His recognition of left-handed breaking stuff or right-handed change-ups every time I’ve seen him has been way below average, and I think it’s just going to limit him to some kind of reserve role in the major leagues.”
You can listen to the full interview with Law below or by searching for Locked On Phillies wherever you get your podcasts.
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