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Mickey Moniak Learns To Relax

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Mickey Moniak believes he’s in a good place mentally as he heads into his first big league spring training. The first overall pick in 2016 has learned a lot in 2 1/2 seasons of pro ball. Tops on that list?

"You can’t panic,” he said during a visit to Philadelphia in January.

Moniak wouldn’t trade the experience of being selected No. 1 overall—it came with a $6.1 million signing bonus—for anything. But the distinction came with pressures that took time for him to learn to manage. He hopes that new mentality fuels a big leap in 2019.

The 20-year-old outfielder got off to a slow start at high Class A Clearwater last season but finished with a flourish, hitting .302 with 24 extra-base hits and an .829 OPS over his final 52 games. His strikeout rate came down and his walk rate went up over that span.

So what clicked for Moniak? He says he relaxed, stopped putting pressure on himself and got back to simply having fun playing baseball. It started when a bunch of his high school buddies from Southern California visited him in Clearwater, Fla.

"There were 10 of us in a two-bedroom apartment just hanging out,” Moniak said with a laugh. "They came to all the games for a week. They got on me from the stands. It felt like I was back in high school, playing pressure-free. Their support helped me realize that it’s still baseball, have fun with it.”

Moniak has added about 30 pounds of muscle to his 6-3 frame since he was drafted. His lefthanded swing has produced just 10 homers in his first two full minor league seasons, but the added strength could one day lead to more power as he continues to climb the developmental ladder. It would not be surprising to see him open the season back in the Florida State League with an eye toward getting to Double-A Reading before the season is out.

Regardless of where Moniak opens the season, he will remember the big lesson he learned in 2018: It’s still baseball, have fun with it.

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