TAMPA, Fla.—Two minutes before commissioner Rob Manfred stepped to the podium and called his name, Mickey Moniak knew he was going to be the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft.
The rest of the 150 or so assembled guests at his draft watch party, held at his aunt’s house, were in the dark. Rather than break the news himself, he wanted to see his friends and family react.
“You never know until it actually happens, but I was getting looked at by the Phillies a lot,” Moniak said outside the Yankees’ minor league complex, where he and his Rookie-level Gulf Coast League teammates had just come away with a win. “It was never a sure thing that I was going to go No. 1, it kind of just happened two minutes before the draft.
“My dad was talking to my agent, we had a deal set up. I knew then that the Phillies were going to take me. It was awesome.”
With members of the party set up both outside and in the house’s living room, there was a neat ripple effect created by the delay between televisions.
“It was insane. Just in my room there were probably 15 people, and then in the backyard there were the rest,” he said. “We were early, so we heard it early and that room went nuts with all my family, and then outside went nuts when they heard it.”
Eventually, Moniak signed with the Phillies for $6.1 million, reported to the team’s spring training base in Clearwater, Fla., and got into his first game on June 25. Since then, the fresh-faced 18-year-old has played in 24 games and has hit .322/.398/.422 with a home run and seven RBIs.
He’s also stolen seven bases, including three on Monday afternoon. He’s found out quickly that life as a prep star is far different from that of a minor leaguer, where the grind is daily and unrelenting.
“It’s been different, coming out and playing pro ball, playing baseball every day,” he said, fresh from losing a rock-paper-scissors contest that meant he had to lug the day’s baseballs back to the bus in addition to all his own equipment. “I’ve embraced it. I’ve enjoyed it and I’m excited for what’s to come, finishing out this season and hopefully winning some more ballgames.
“I definitely anticipated it. It’s definitely a grind, but when you’re going out and playing baseball every day for a job, you can’t beat it. You’ve just got to enjoy it.”
With about a month left in the GCL season, plus a likely slate of instructional league games ahead, Moniak isn’t getting caught up in individual goals. Yes, he’d like to hit .300 and produce solid numbers, but he also wants to win. His team sits just four behind the Blue Jays in the GCL’s Northwest division, and he’d like to help get this group to the playoffs.
“My goal is just to go out and help my team win every day,” he said. “If we come out on top I’ll be happy.”
Beyond the pack of intriguing, familiar prospects on the GCL Phillies’ roster, there was another player who stuck out on Monday. Lefthander Nick Fanti, a 31st-round selection in the 2015 draft out of high school in Smithtown, N.Y., whom the Phillies signed for $100,000, went five shutout innings and punched out eight.
A wiry-bodied lefty listed at 6-foot-1 and 188 pounds, Fanti flummoxed the Yankees with a mid-80s fastball that peaked at 88 as well as a sneaky curveball in the high-70s and a developing changeup with a touch of fade in the low-80s.
Although the fastball wasn’t overpowering, his ability to add hard cut and run at will enabled him to get swings and misses and weak contact all afternoon. The outing only continued a run of success he’s had this year in a return to the GCL, where he’s gone 4-0, 1.38 with 47 strikeouts and just five walks in 33 innings.
He also varied the break on his curveball, softening it up when he needed to drop it in for a strike or tightening the pitch when he wanted to get the punchout.
Rehabbing righthander Jairo Munoz, who was working in a grocery store in Philadelphia after being released by the Royals in 2014, pitched a scoreless inning in relief of Fanti. He showed the quick, big arm that got him signed, sitting in the upper-90s with a nasty high-70s curveball to boot. He struck out a pair.
Another rehabber, outfielder Roman Quinn, pulled a single into right field on a 92 mph fastball in his first trip to the plate, then stole second base on the next pitch. He also reached on an infield single and nearly beat out a jailbreak bunt on which he reached first base in 3.69 seconds.
Outfielder Jhailyn Ortiz, lauded for his power, hit a double to deep center field on a hanging curveball in on his hands.