The 2015 Phillies lost 99 games, something that the franchise hadn’t done since 1969. They finished 27 games out of first place in the division, the most since the 2000 team finished 30 games back. Something had to change for that team, and quick, which meant that when they received the first overall pick in the 2016 draft, the pressure and expectations for that player would have been high, no matter who it was.
When Mickey Moniak was drafted the following June, he became just the second player to ever be drafted first overall by the organization. The first was Pat Burrell in 1998. As you may recall, he became a World Series Champion ten years later.
Moniak’s first season as a pro helped build the hype around him as he batted .284 in 46 games in the Gulf Coast League. He collected 15 base hits, including his first career home run, and led the team in stolen bases with ten.
In 2017, however, he struggled as he hit just .236 in 123 games with Lakewood. Part of his regression could have been a rapid change in the shape of his body. He weighed 170 pounds when he was drafted and weighed 190 at the start of the 2017 season. Adjusting to a 20-pound gain, especially for someone who relies heavily on speed as part of his game, is not an easy change. Part of that could have also been adjusting to playing a full professional schedule. Moniak had never played a five-month season prior to 2017.
The 2018 season was much better, though he got off to a slow start. In 114 games with Clearwater he slashed .270/.304/.383 with 28 doubles, three triples and five home runs. More importantly, he slashed .286/.332/.442 in the second half of the season, including batting .311 in the month of August. His overall numbers weren’t great, but he did bounce back and take a big step forward in his development.
Moniak continued to progress through the minor league system this season, beginning the 2019 campaign in Reading. Again, he started the season slowly, batting just .195 in the month of April. But despite the slow start, Moniak has put together a very good season so far and is continuing to trend upward. In June he hit .294 while collecting 13 extra base hits, including four triples. His ten triples on the season leads not only the Fightins, but the entire Eastern League. With runners in scoring position, he’s slashing .395/.447/.737 and he even has a higher slugging percentage on the road (.467) than at home (.413) despite playing in hitter-friendly FirstEnergy Stadium.
What’s important to remember with Moniak is that he was drafted right out of high school, less than a month after his 18th birthday. Despite already being in his fourth pro season, he’s younger than the first overall picks from 2018 and 2019 (Casey Mize [Tigers] and Adley Rutschman [Orioles]) and all three of the Phillies’ first round picks (Adam Haseley, Alec Bohm and Bryson Stott) that have come after him. Those five players all spent time playing in college before turning pro, giving them a developmental advantage.
While being young doesn’t excuse poor performance, it does provide an explanation for why Moniak has struggled at times throughout the beginning of his career. As he continues to gain experience, he will grow more confident, which will lead to more consistency at the plate and better overall numbers. Moniak is still a while away from having an impact at the major league level, but if he continues to play the way he has recently, this season will prove to be a huge step in the right direction.