Mickey Moniak won’t open the 2021 season on the Philadelphia Phillies 26-man roster, but you get the feeling that manager Joe Girardi expects the 22-year-old to play a key role for the team in the not-so-distant future.
The Phillies optioned Moniak to minor-league camp Friday. He’ll likely open the 2021 season at the satellite squad, and then with the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs, who begin their season in early May. Upon the decision to option Moniak, Girardi left the former No. 1 overall pick with a message about his expectations.
“I think he’s an everyday player in the big leagues,” Girardi said. “And I told him that the one thing that we want is that when you come back, we want you to be ready to play every day – every day. I thought he had a really good camp…I think he’s gotten bigger and stronger…I challenged him to keep that strength…sometimes it’s hard during the season, but you really gotta work at it. I think he’s grown as a hitter…I think he’s much more mature in his approach..[he needs to] continue to master that craft and continue to get better. [I also told him he needs to] play every position in the outfield – I want you to play every position. So, Mickey was really impressive in camp and we’re excited about his future.”
The Phillies will open the season with some combination of Adam Haseley, Odúbel Herrera, Scott Kingery and Roman Quinn in center field. Even a year after the Phillies had a historically-bad bullpen, center field is clearly the biggest question on the roster as the start of the 2021 season approaches.
At this stage of Moniak’s career, the Phillies believe that the best thing for him is to get consistent at-bats. Could he have been part of a rotating group in center field to begin the 2021 season? Maybe. But he’s never played at Triple-A, and the Phillies think that the most beneficial thing for Moniak will be to get four or five at-bats in every game.
It is interesting that Girardi noted that he wants Moniak to be a guy that can thrive at all three outfield positions. Naturally, he’s a long-term option in center, and depending on how he performs at Triple-A, he could force his way into the picture at the major league level later this season. But if his bat continues to develop, Moniak could also be considered in left field, with the Phillies probably not especially likely to pick up Andrew McCutchen’s $15 million option for 2022.
All in all, Moniak should feel excellent about his spring. Last summer, The Athletic‘s Keith Law told Phillies Nation that the organization’s decision to use the top overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft looked like a “complete disaster.” It’s evident that the Phillies don’t agree with that assessment.
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