Mickey Moniak has been on a slower path than most. After being drafted first overall in the 2016 MLB draft, Moniak has been held to high expectations. The Phillies took a bit of a chance taking him directly out of high school. However, this partially explains the delay in his development.
After a few years in the minors, where he batted .256 in just over 400 games, Moniak got his first crack at the majors in 2020. During the shortened season, the rookie made 18 plate appearances. In those games, he had three hits, four walks, three runs, and six strikeouts (.214 average).
However, during this Spring Training, Manager Joe Girardi has shown high praise for the outfielder.
“He’s a talented young kid,” Girardi said, “and his at-bats have been great since the day of live (batting practice). That’s not easy to do” the second-year manager said after Moniak’s big game yesterday afternoon. “He got some confidence last year,” Girardi said. “He probably got a better idea of what it takes on a daily basis to be up here.”
How good has his spring training actually been, you may ask?
Let’s start off by saying this:
Just in Thursday afternoon’s game against the Yankees alone, Moniak had two home runs in back-to-back plate appearances. First, he hit a 372-foot home run off Yankees (and former Phillies!) pitcher Reggie McClain in the sixth inning.
Moniak followed that with a 415-foot blast off New York’s Nestor Cortes in the seventh.
Moniak is showing prowess at the plate. If looking at some of his older film, he is beginning to generate more power through his hips. In prior videos of him in the minors, the youngster looks as if he would try to generate power through his shoulders, causing his balance to be off, ultimately leading to a loss of power and consistency.
Manager Joe Girardi has recognized Moniak’s growth in confidence as well:
“It’s different,” he said. “He’s bigger, he’s stronger. I would say it’s probably the best condition he has been in. It’s a young man that is maturing. All of sudden they start getting bigger and stronger and the ball starts jumping off their bat and we saw it happen a couple of times today with Mickey. Again, I’m going to say it, he’s interesting.
Look at Moniak now- he is getting more of a knee bend. His power is following through his entire swing. The 22-year-old is gaining some more hip torque in regards to his follow-through. Similar to a golfer, baseball players need to learn to hit for contact first. Once that contact starts to become more consistent, the power will come naturally.
Should he be the Phillies’ starting centerfielder?
In reality, there’s likely only one opening spot in the Phillies outfield. Bryce Harper occupies right field, that’s a given. Left field will be Andrew McCutchen’s, barring any injury. Centerfield, though, is WIDE open and crowded with competition. Adam Haseley, Scott Kingery, Odubel Herrera, and Roman Quinn are fighting to be the everyday starter in center. All of Kingery, Herrera, and Moniak homered in the 15-0 rout of the Yankees on Thursday. Haseley homered on the second pitch of Spring Training. Each of these guys came to compete and battle.
Moniak is still a bit raw, though. In fact, that may benefit him. The Phillies’ outfield is overly crowded with a group of players that each could “break out” in their own ways. Moniak, sitting at a mere 22-years-old, may gain more from starting with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Sitting on the Phillies’ bench would likely derail his confidence.
He needs starts. Get him starts in AAA ball, where he’s playing every day and building confidence. Moniak will prove his doubters wrong one day, but this year may not be “that day.”
Photo Credit: Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire