Draft Spotlight: Mickey Moniak

Mickey Moniak (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

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With a name like Mickey and a grandfather who was mentored by Ted Williams, Mickey Moniak was practically born to play professional baseball.

The Philadelphia Phillies obliged him, taking the 18-year-old Carlsbad, Calif., high school outfielder with the first overall selection in the 2016 draft and quickly signing him to a bonus of $6.1 million.

Though Moniak’s given name is McKenzie, he has gone by Mickey all his life, and his baseball idol naturally is Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle. “My favorite all-time player is Mickey Mantle and not just because of the name,” Moniak said.

One of Mantle’s contemporaries was Bill Moniak, Mickey’s grandfather, who signed a $25,000 bonus contract with the Boston Red Sox in 1958. Though Bill never advanced beyond Class A in six seasons in the Red Sox system, he was tutored in the finer points of hitting by Williams. He in turn passed some of his basic hitting tips to his grandson and was instrumental in his development as a top prospect. Moniak’s first hitting coach, at age 2, was his grandfather.

“My grandpop is my biggest fan,” Moniak said. “He definitely influenced my game, my approach, how I hit and play baseball. He’s been huge in my development as a baseball player.”

Williams stressed having a specific approach at the plate. He told Bill Moniak about what pitches to avoid. A first pitch strike on the outside part of the plate? Let the pitcher have that. Another good pitch on the corner? Lay off it.

“But once you get to 0-2, you have to get up on the plate and look to put the ball in play,” Moniak said. “The pitcher is never going to beat you. That’s the main mentality. It’s just you versus him. That’s what he’s passed down to me.”

The Phillies were drawn to Moniak’s advanced offensive skills. In 29 games as a senior at La Costa Canyon High, Moniak hit .476 with seven home runs, 12 triples and 46 RBIs.

He finished his four-year career with a .390 average, nine homers and 105 RBIs.

Though his speed, defense and mentality have always been held in high regard, Moniak left little doubt what part of his game excited scouts most. “I love to hit,” he said. “I use my speed to help that out, but I’d definitely say hitting. I try to stay within myself, but the main thing I’m working on now is to put on muscle and get more power in my swing.”

It was during the summer of 2015, while a member of USA Baseball’s junior national team, that Moniak established himself as a top prospect and began believing he had a shot not only at becoming a first-rounder but a top draft pick.

“Obviously, playing with all the tough competition last summer reassured me that I could play with those guys,” Moniak said. “Over the summer, there would be 50, 60 scouts at every event you went to. It’s good to have an experience like that.”

At 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds, the lefthanded-hitting Moniak drew comparisons to fellow Southern California area product Christian Yelich, a rising star with the Miami Marlins.

Both are lanky center fielders with speed and Gold Glove potential who are better pure hitters than power hitters. Like Yelich, Moniak has a patient approach and rarely seems to over-stride at the plate—tips that his grandfather gleaned from the Splendid Splinter.

“I take a lot of pride in hitting,” Moniak said. “It’s something I work on a lot. I definitely think that’s what stood out. When I go up to the plate, I have the mentality that the pitcher is not going to beat me. I go up there with a purpose.”

Moniak is in tune with the mechanics of his swing and says that his upper half looks pretty similar to how it looked when he was just 10 years old. He sees the ball well and maintains good bat control. He rarely swings and misses.

Phillies scouting director Johnny Almaraz believes Moniak will eventually hit 15-22 homers a season as he matures. “I think you’ll have a Gold Glove center fielder who will hit in the middle of the lineup and be a leader on the team,” he said.

Mickey’s father, Matt, played baseball at San Diego State. “He was a good ballplayer,” Bill Moniak confided, “but he liked to surf and things.” But it was his grandson who never seemed to want to do or talk about anything else other than baseball.

“That’s it in a nutshell,” Moniak said. “If there was anyone ever born to play the game, that little kid is it. He played no other sport.”

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