MLB Spring Training Notes: Mickey Moniak Finds His Power In Phillies Camp
Mickey Moniak arrived at Phillies camp visibly bigger and stronger this spring. The desired results have followed.
Moniak is 5-for-9 with four extra-base hits in Grapefruit League play, including two home runs in a game against the Yankees last week. While spring training statistics should always be taken with a grain of salt, Moniak’s performance has nonetheless caught the attention of Phillies manager Joe Girardi.
“He's looked really good,” Girardi said Tuesday. “He's been impressive. I've said all along he's interesting and I'm gonna say it again. He's interesting, because I think there's a lot of talent there.”
Moniak, 22, has largely struggled to hit since the Phillies drafted him first overall in 2016. He is a career .256/.302/.390 hitter in the minor leagues and has hit more than five home runs only once in three full seasons. Both Phillies officials and opposing scouts have consistently noted through the years that Moniak needed to get stronger and cut down on his free-swinging approach.
Moniak made strides in the right direction at the alternate training site last summer and received his first callup in September. He reported to camp this spring weighing 205 pounds, according to The Athletic, up from a listed 195 last season.
The effects have been immediate. In his first at-bat of the spring, Moniak laced a double to the opposite field. Later that week, he drove a 95-mph inside fastball from Reggie McClain 372 feet to right field for his first home run. The following inning, facing lefty Nestor Cortes, he got a fastball over the plate and launched it 415 feet to right.
The good times have yet to stop. In Moniak’s lone at-bat Tuesday, he hit a triple that left the bat at 101 mph, according to Statcast.
“I don't think you're gonna see the full effects of Mickey's power until he's 26, 27 years old, and I believe it's in there and I think we're starting to see signs of it now,” Girardi said. “It's a lot of times unfair to ask a kid that's 22 years old to be the person that he's going to be at 27 and I think that's rare … A lot of guys, the last thing to come is power. And I think we will eventually see more and more from Mickey.”
Moniak’s strength and power gains—as well an increase in selectivity noted by Girardi—have made for an unexpected wrinkle in the battle for the Phillies' starting center field job. Adam Haseley suffered a groin injury that is expected keep him out the rest of spring training, leaving Odubel Herrera, Scott Kingery and Roman Quinn as the main contenders. Moniak, the youngest and least experienced of the group, faces an uphill battle to beat them all out.
That Moniak is even in the discussion, though, is a sign of the strides he’s made. With his performance so far, as Girardi put it, Moniak has made the conversation “really, really interesting.”
MARCO LUCIANO AIMS FOR QUICK RISE
Marco Luciano is 19 years old and has yet to play full-season ball. Even so, the Giants No. 1 prospect has set an aggressive timeline for himself to reach the major leagues.
“I think if I continue doing what I’m doing right now and I have a regular season, a full season, under me,” Luciano said through an interpreter, “ … I think a year would be my timetable.”
Luciano, the No. 12 prospect in the BA Top 100, is in big league camp with the Giants this spring, continuing his trend of playing amongst older players. He was invited to summer camp in 2020 and spent the year at the alternate training site, where he was largely surrounded by players with upper minors or major league experience.
“That actually helped me a lot,” he said. “Just to keep learning and be around veteran and more experienced players giving me advice and teaching me how to improve.
Luciano finished the year in instructional league, where he was frequently identified by scouts as one of the top players in Arizona. He was invited to big league camp this spring and has played in eight of the Giants’ nine games.
Luciano’s goal of debuting in the majors in 2022, when he would be 20, is inspired by two phenoms he said he admires and tries to emulate: Mike Trout and Fernando Tatis Jr.
Trout made his debut at 19 years old. Tatis made his at 20. Both made the jump from Double-A, a level Luciano could feasibly reach this season.
The fact Luciano is in big league camp has only strengthened his resolve that he can follow a similar path, and be in the majors faster than might otherwise be expected.
“I like the fact that I’m competing with older players, major leaguers,” Luciano said. “That shows me that I can play to that level. And obviously being young, you can always learn something from them.”
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CAL QUANTRILL SECURE AS A STARTER
Cal Quantrill primarily worked as a reliever last year, but there is no question about his role moving forward.
“He is gonna be a starter,” Indians manager Terry Francona said last week.
Quantrill, 26, came to the Indians from the Padres in the Mike Clevinger trade last summer and posted a 1.84 ERA in eight appearances, mostly as a reliever before making two starts at the end of the year.
The offseason trade of Carlos Carrasco opened up a spot in the Indians rotation. Shane Bieber, Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale have their spots secured, with top prospect Triston McKenzie expected to take another. Quantrill, lefthander Logan Allen and veteran Adam Plutko are among those fighting to win the final rotation spot.
Quantrill, the eighth overall pick in the 2016 draft, came up through the minors as a starter and started for the Padres as a rookie in 2019. In his two starts with the Indians last season, he allowed one earned run over seven innings.
“We told him when (last) season was over that we wanted him to prepare as a starter which I think he was really excited about,” Francona said. “To his credit, he spent a lot of time here in Arizona, worked on adding to his arsenal and to his pitch mix, and he's been throwing the ball extremely well from the minute he showed up in Arizona.”
Quantrill got the start in the Indians’ spring opener and pitched two scoreless innings. He came on in relief of McKenzie in his second outing, which Francona said was a product of scheduling rather than any change of plans, and gave up three hits and two runs in 1.1 innings. He is scheduled to make his next start today against the Angels.
GAVIN LUX BACK ON TRACK
Gavin Lux has been one of the early standouts in the Cactus League, going 6-for-14 with a double and three RBIs while recording a hit in each of his five games.
It’s been a welcome sight for the 2019 Minor League Player of the Year after he struggled to a .175/.246/.349 slash line last season and was left off the Dodgers’ postseason roster.
“I think Gavin right now is just sound mechanically,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Lot of clarity and comfortable. He’s feeling good. Just looks really good all around.”
Lux, 23, has started four of the Dodgers' eight games at second base and started another at shortstop. After going 1-for-3 with an RBI single Tuesday, he described his 2020 struggles "as a learning experience" and noted some adjustments he's made to his swing.
"I definitely tried to simplify some things down," Lux said. "Just make my swing and gather a little more repeatable and not so susceptible to slide steps and and certain other things. Just trying to be more repeatable and simplify it."
Lux has also been reliable in the field, an encouraging sign after he's struggled with throwing accuracy issues in his career. He has converted all 12 of his chances so far without an error.