Did Mickey Moniak play well enough in Phillies big-league camp this spring to change the narrative?
Joe Girardi thinks so.
Moniak’s slow progression and pedestrian performance in the minor leagues since being selected with the first overall pick in the 2016 draft has led some to project him as fourth outfielder in the major leagues.
After watching Moniak for the past six weeks in Florida, Girardi thinks that projection is light.
“Oh, I think he’s an everyday player in the big leagues,” Girardi said in response to a question about Moniak’s ceiling on Tuesday.
“I do. Mickey was very impressive in camp and we’re excited about his future.”
Moniak, who will turn 23 in May, had six hits in 22 at-bats (.273) and showed extra-base pop with two doubles, two homers and a triple. He walked twice and struck out six times.
Ironically, Moniak’s extra-base pop came as he was making adjustments to his swing and going back to the line-drive approach that excited scouts before he entered pro ball and succumbed to pressure to try to lift the ball.
“He’s gotten bigger and stronger and I think he’s grown as a hitter,” Girardi said. “He’s much more mature in his approach.”
There was a mild outcry for Moniak to be considered more seriously for the team’s open spot in center field, but team officials believe the player needs more development time. Judging by Moniak’s overall minor-league record and a cameo in the major leagues last season, they are right.
In 402 career games in the minors, Moniak has hit .256 with just a .302 on-base percentage. His slugging percentage is just .390.
Moniak did show signs of improvement, particularly with some extra-base pop, at Double A in 2019. He hit .252 with 28 doubles, 13 triples, 11 homers and 67 RBIs. He was also successful on 15 of 18 stolen-base attempts.
This is a big year for Moniak, a left-handed hitter who now carries 205 pounds on his 6-3 frame. He will likely stay ready in an auxiliary camp until the Triple A season begins in May. He may never live up to the hype of being the first overall pick in the 2016 draft, going ahead of Nick Senzel, Ian Anderson, Shane Bieber, Zac Gallen, Will Smith, Kyle Lewis, Pete Alonso and others, but he can still become a contributor at the big-league level -- even an everyday player, according to Girardi’s scouting report.
The contracts of Odubel Herrera and Andrew McCutchen both run out after this season so the Phillies will have opportunities in their outfield next spring. It's up to Moniak to build on the promise he showed this spring and become a legitimate candidate to make the club next spring, if not sooner.
That was basically the message that Girardi imparted on Moniak when he sent him to the minors on Tuesday. The manager told Moniak to maintain the strength he’s added to his body, continue to master his approach at the plate and play all three outfield positions.
“I told him the one thing that we want is when you come back, we want you ready to play every day,” Girardi said.