Mickey moniak phillies

Phillies’ top pick Mickey Moniak could be poised for big leap in 2019

It’s not always easy being the No. 1 overall pick in the major league baseball draft. Oh, the attention is great and the money ain’t bad, but the spotlight is relentlessly glaring and it can burn a hole right through you if you don’t immediately produce.

Mickey Moniak has walked in these spikes for 2½ seasons now. He’s felt the euphoria of hearing his name called above all others. He’s also felt the glare and the burn.

And the main thing he’s learned?

“You can’t panic,” he said.

The Phillies selected the wide-eyed Southern California native with the first overall pick in the 2016 draft and lured him away from a UCLA commitment with a $6.1 million signing bonus. For 2½ seasons, the young outfielder’s every move has been closely scrutinized. That’s just the way it is when you’re a No. 1 pick. Moniak has had his ups and downs and maybe a few too many downs for some. But there are a couple of big reasons to believe that Moniak is headed in the right direction on the often fickle development curve:

• He’s 20 years old for gosh sake, and won’t turn 21 until May. If he had gone the college route, his junior season would not even have begun yet.

• And he played eye-opening ball over the final two months of the 2018 season at Clearwater of the Florida State League. Over his final 52 games, he hit .302 and with 24 extra-base hits and an .829 OPS. His strikeout rate came down and his walk rate went up. That his improvement came late in the season, after months in draining Florida heat that has eaten up more than a few players, was a promising sign.

Moniak’s late-season success was fueled by something intangible. He took a deep breath, put faith in his talent, stopped putting pressure on himself and had some fun playing ball again. It all started last summer when a group of his pals from high school in the San Diego area traveled across the country and visited him in Clearwater.

“There were 10 of us in a two-bedroom apartment just hanging out,” Moniak said with a laugh.

Moniak’s buddies came to all the games that week. They heckled him (good-naturedly) from the stands and he went on a tear at the plate. It felt like he was back in high school, playing pressure-free ball.

“Their support helped me realize that it’s still baseball, have fun with it,” Moniak said.

Moniak was in Philadelphia this week to participate in the team’s prospect education seminar. He had been to Citizens Bank Park after the team drafted him in June 2016. Back then, he was 170 pounds. He has added muscle to his frame and is now 6-3, 205 pounds. His left-handed 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 development ladder.

It’s unclear where Moniak will open the 2019 season. It’s possible that he gets some more time in the Florida State League with the idea of playing himself to Double A Reading before the season is over. More immediately, he will be in big-league spring training camp next month, a little reward for his strong finish last summer, and a reminder that he still has huge potential for a bright future.

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Why aren’t major-leaguers in the Olympics? There’s more than meets the eye

Why aren’t major-leaguers in the Olympics? There’s more than meets the eye

Earlier this week, Bryce Harper called it “dumb” and “a travesty” that major-leaguers do not compete in the Olympics while on Barstool’s Starting 9 podcast.

“It is such a travesty to me — I’m not saying this as disrespect to minor-leaguers — the (2021) Olympics are in Tokyo, and you’re not sending big-league guys? Are you kidding me?” Harper asked rhetorically. “You wanna grow the game as much as possible and you’re not gonna let us play in the Olympics because you don’t wanna cut out on money for a two-week period? Like, OK, that’s dumb.”

The way Harper described the situation made it seem like common sense that the best baseball players in the world should be representing their countries in the Summer Games. But there’s more than meets the eye with this issue. Jim Salisbury and I discussed on Friday’s Phillies Talk podcast.

Jim: My reaction is kind of . layered, I have several reactions. One, MLB understands the importance of promoting the game worldwide, that’s why they partnered in founding and developing the World Baseball Classic, which American-born big-leaguers are very lukewarm to. They don’t even consider it much of an event as shown by their reluctance to participate. What about the WBC? Maybe show that level of passion for the WBC and you’d have what you’re looking for there.

Corey: But worldwide, the WBC doesn’t have the same allure as the Olympics.

Jim: I would definitely agree with that but they’re trying to promote the game worldwide. I just thought the WBC was founded, one of the reasons, because they want to unlock China 50 years from now as a talent base. China could help drive some huge revenues if you get fans there to fall in love with the game as they have with basketball. It’s a future market. The Olympics are very tough. And I hope [major-leaguers] are in the Olympics because I’m all for promoting the game worldwide as much as possible and I agree, they should be in the Olympics as a promotion vehicle.

It’s just very, very hard to send your big-leaguers to the summer Olympics because you know, you’re talking shutting down or losing marquee guys for three weeks of the big-league schedule. Though owners are in favor of the WBC because it’s a promotional vehicle, I don’t know that they want to lose a Bryce Harper for three weeks. I don’t think you can take him off of a team for three weeks, it would really hurt that team. I just think it’s very difficult to do in terms of scheduling. You can’t shut down the big leagues for three weeks because you think you’re gonna grow the game in the future in the Olympics. You’re gonna lose those revenues at the moment and those revenues help you pay the marquee guys. It’s a real Catch-22. You want to promote your game at the Olympics but it’s tough to send your top guys.

Hey, look, it would be great. I covered the Salt Lake Olympics in ’02 and I was assigned to the hockey tournament. That’s all I covered, my hotel was right next to the arena, I walked there every day and I watched unbelievably great hockey. The reason it was great hockey was because the NHL sent all its top players. Lemieux was there, Roenick was there, Chelios, Matt Sundin was playing for Sweden. I saw these great, great players. But the NHL shut down. I’m sure it’s a give and take. Did the NHL take a hit? Probably. Was it worth it? I don’t know, because I don’t think they do that quite as extensively anymore.

It’s a tough call. I really admire [Harper’s] passion for promoting the game. It really tells you a little bit about Bryce Harper that, you know, he’s a ballplayer but he’s got that kind of business mind. I think his heart is in the right place, I just think it’s going to be tough to pull off.

Corey: Would a compromise work if baseball did shut down for three weeks in the middle of the season and just extended it by three weeks at the end? You could start earlier to have those additional three weeks still be in decent weather.

Jim: I just think it would be hard. The Olympics are typically July, August. Your pennant races are taking shape, your trade deadline. You have over 700 players. You’re gonna be sending maybe 32 to the Olympics, 35. What about the rest of the players? Are they supposed to shut down for three weeks and then start back up? And what if Aaron Nola participates and takes a ball off the kneecap that affects the rest of his major-league season? I just think there’s a lot going on there.

Hey, always, the dollar sign rules the day. If they think they can make money off of this and not lose money while promoting the game, then it would be great. I just think there are a lot of challenges.

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