Mickey Moniak has a good sense of baseball history. His favorite all-time player is — you guessed — Mickey Mantle. And his granddad, Bill Moniak, was tutored by Hall of Famer Ted Williams as a young minor-leaguer in the Boston Red Sox system.
The younger Moniak made some baseball history of his own Tuesday night when the Phillies made him the game’s latest No. 1 pick draft pick (see story). The 18-year-old centerfielder will pass on a commitment to UCLA and sign with the Phillies in the coming weeks.
“I’m very excited to be a Phillie,” Moniak said in a media conference call from his home near San Diego late Thursday night. “I’m definitely looking to get out there as soon as possible. I’m just ready to get the professional career started and hopefully get up to Philadelphia as fast as I can.
“Obviously, the Phillies have been a storied franchise and have been a very successful organization. There’s been a few rough years. But they’ve always been — they’ve got great fans, some of the best fans in the world. I’m excited to hopefully play for those fans and play for this organization.”
Moniak is widely considered the best high school hitter in this draft. Last year, the Phillies picked outfielder Cornelius Randolph with their first pick (No. 10 overall). He was considered the top high school hitter in that draft. Both of these players will need time to develop, but they project as difference-making bats.
Major League Baseball assigned a $9.01 million signing bonus to the top pick. It is likely that the Phillies and Moniak agreed for less than that amount. The Phillies will look to use some of that surplus in an effort to lure some top prospects out of college commitments in later rounds of the draft. One of those prospects is right-handed pitcher Kevin Gowdy. He was the Phillies' second-round pick (No. 42 overall) (see story). He also has a commitment to UCLA. The recommended slot for the No. 42 pick is just over $1.5 million. Clearly, the Phillies will enhance that number to try to entice Gowdy to sign.
Moniak is 6-2, 180 pounds. He hits from the left side. He hit .476 with a .921 slugging percentage, seven homers, 12 triples, 46 RBIs and 40 runs scored as a senior at La Costa Canyon High School in Carlsbad, California. In four varsity seasons, he hit .390 with 105 RBIs and 105 runs scored.
Moniak considers his bat to be his best tool.
“I take a lot of pride in hitting,” he said. “It's something I work on a lot. I definitely think that's what stood out, as well as obviously my speed and my ability to play center field. I definitely think my hit tool was the main thing.”
An army of Phillies scouts watched Moniak this season and during the showcase season last summer. Special assistants Pat Gillick and Charlie Manuel both attended his games this spring.
Moniak’s first hitting coach was his grandfather, the former Red Sox minor-leaguer who was once coached by Williams.
“My grandpop is my biggest fan,” Moniak said. “He was bonus baby out of high school in '58. His hitting coach was Ted Williams for a while. It definitely influenced my game, my approach, how I hit and play baseball. So that's been huge in my development as a baseball player.
“The main thing he taught me that Ted taught him was mostly about approach, what you're looking to do at the plate. In an 0-0 count, the pitcher makes a good pitch on the outside corner, let them have it. On 0-1, he makes another good pitch outside corner or inside corner, let him have it. But once you get to 0-2, you have to get up on the plate and look to put the ball in play.
“The pitcher is never going to beat you. That's the main mentality. It's just you versus him. That's definitely what he's passed down to me.”
Moniak’s given name is McKenzie. He has always been called Mickey, fitting because of his admiration for the original Mick.
“My favorite all-time player is Mickey Mantle and not just because of the name,” Moniak said.
The Phillies have had the No. 1 overall pick twice in their history. Pat Burrell was the other in 1998 — the year Moniak was born.
“The No. 1 pick has always been a dream,” Moniak said. “Up until the point where the commissioner said my name, up until then, it was all a mystery. When it happened, it was unbelievable. It’s definitely a huge honor. First and foremost, you’ve got to look at it like that.”
Moniak said he would feel no pressure trying to live up to the lofty pick. He will simply play, have fun and try to win.
“The main thing about baseball and the main thing I like to do when I play the game of baseball is you can’t put too much added pressure on yourself,” he said. “In between the lines, the main thing is go out and win a ballgame. That’s your main focus. That’s all you’ve got to focus on. All the stuff off the field, it can take a back seat for nine innings. Focusing on the game definitely takes away that added pressure and focusing on winning would definitely be the main thing.”