READING, PA – Last offseason the Philadelphia Phillies were big winners, making significant upgrades to their roster. Often times though, acquisitions, whether it’s in free agency or trades, are supposed to be the missing piece and supplement an established young core of talent ready to compete for a championship.
Aaron Nola and Rhys Hoskins have shown that they can be elite players at the major-league level, but there has also been as many uncertainties as guarantees. As the Phillies organization continues to build towards a winning future, they know that more hits of young controllable players remains perhaps the most important aspect of building a team.
In 2016 the Phillies selected Mickey Moniak with the number one overall pick as an 18-year-old out of high school. Moniak’s professional career has seen mixed results, but this season with the Phillies Double-A affiliate Reading Fightin Phils, there has been more signs that Moniak has the tools to be a core piece going forward.
Despite having three years of experience, Moniak is still only 21 with plenty of room to develop. With the expectation that he spends 2020 in Triple A and continues to progress through the system, a call-up to the majors could be in the discussion, as we see more players from that 2016 draft class performing in the major leagues.
Moniak currently leads the team in hits and triples, but those are skills that have always been strengths of his. An impressive improvement is his power, hitting two home runs in one game for the first time this season. Moniak is only one home run shy this season of tying the number of home runs hit in his entire professional career, even though he admits it’s not something he has specifically worked on.
“I credit it to just being my third full season knowing what to expect, what to do in the offseason to prepare my body,” Moniak told Baseball Essential. “I wouldn’t say there’s a swing change, or a mechanic change just knowing how to physically and mentally prepare for 140 games. You can only do so much in practice, so getting the reps in a game can credit my success.”
When Moniak was drafted, the future was very uncertain, with the big-league club losing 91 games and still deciding who could be pieces to build around. While they aren’t yet a finished product, the development of the minor-league players and a winning culture continues to be established, as Reading is 20 games over .500 with only percentage points separating them from being the top team in the Eastern League. Where individual improvement is heavily judged, and rightfully so in the minors, Moniak recognizes the importance of being around winning for young players.
“It’s huge, and important for me as a pro. Obviously development is more of a focus and something this organization focuses on, but our entire team has a main goal of winning,” Moniak said. “Every year I’ve been in the Phillies organization, we’ve had a winning record. It shows the kind of guys we got and the talent and attitude. Everybody in the clubhouse likes spending time with each other off the field, which definitely translates to the field.”
Clearly expectations have surrounded Moniak throughout his professional career with opinions across the spectrum saying he won’t be the player the Phillies envisioned when he bats just .236 in A-ball, or every time there’s a hot streak where everything has clicked. Being a top pick in baseball definitely has more risk compared to other sports, and although some teams might be pleased if they get an everyday contributor in the majors, there’s still a certain pressure that comes with going number one overall. Moniak has heard the noise and admits that when he was younger, the rumors and chatter were something that did enter his mind.
“I’ve dealt with it for three-to-four years now, learning to block out the outside noise, and tend to focus on my family, friends, coaching staff, and the entire Phillies organization,” Moniak said. “They will dictate the success of my career, not Twitter or social media. That comes with experience and being more mature after being an 18-year-old kid when you do want to see everything, and the Phillies have entrusted me by the way I’ve progressed through the system to understand how to be a successful professional.”
The Phillies still think highly of Moniak, who appeared in his first big-league Spring Training earlier this year. Spring training for prospects is an opportunity to impress members in the organization, hit against more talented pitchers, and watch up close what accomplished players do on a day-to-day basis. Although Moniak only had four hits in 20 at-bats, the experience was a positive one, giving him confidence going into a higher level of baseball.
“Going to big-league camp for the first time this year was an awesome experience by trying to be a fly on the wall and pick up as much information as I can to be better,” Moniak said. “With what we did this offseason bringing in former MVPs like (Andrew) McCutchen and (Bryce) Harper and having Rhys (Hoskins) in the clubhouse, guys who have been there and performed at the next level, those are the guys you aspire to be one day. Having them as teammates and mentors, and I attribute what I learned from spring training how to go about your business for my success this year.”
With the minor-league season wrapping up, Reading will enter the postseason with Moniak being one of its top performers and a more complete individual player, with a chance to win in a season where his emergence might just be getting started.