Phillies' top draft pick Mickey Moniak already benefitting from added strength

Phillies' top draft pick Mickey Moniak already benefitting from added strength

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Mickey Moniak loves to hit and he does a lot of it.

The evidence is on his right hand.

It's a large callus just under his palm, where the knob of the bat sits when he swings.

Phillies minor-league spring training camp does not officially begin until Sunday, but Moniak has been on site for more than a week going through daily workouts with other early birds on the fields and in the batting cages at Carpenter Complex.

And before arriving in Clearwater, Moniak spent the winter working out with his old high school team and coaches in southern California. When Moniak wasn't hitting with them, he was hitting with fellow Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford, who lives about 90 minutes north. 

"I've been doing my thing in the offseason, hitting, throwing," Moniak said before his workout Wednesday morning. "I'm excited to get going."

Moniak, who turns 19 in May, wasn't just the Phillies' top pick in last year's draft. He was the top pick in the entire draft, the Phillies' "reward" for finishing with the worst record in the majors in 2015. He was the consensus top high school hitter in the draft and the Phillies paid him a $6.1 million signing bonus. He made a nice pro debut last summer, hitting .284 with a .340 on-base percentage, 11 doubles, four triples, a homer and 28 RBIs in 46 games for the Phillies' Gulf Coast League team. He was shut down late in the season with some hip tightness. He saw doctors in Philadelphia and it turned out to be a simple growing pain. Hey, the kid is young.

That first pro season is always a learning experience for a player and Moniak learned he needed to get stronger.

He spent the fall and winter adding 20 pounds of muscle to his 6-2 frame. He was 170 pounds on draft day. Now he weighs 190.

His old coaches at La Costa Canyon High School in Carlsbad, California noticed the added strength during his workouts this winter. The ball jumped off his bat with even more life than it did in the past. And Moniak hit .476 with seven homers, 12 triples and four doubles as a senior last year.

"I take BP at my high school in the offseason and they noticed," Moniak said. "And back here, the coaches are definitely noticing. And I pick it up, too.  The ball just flies a little different. So I'm really excited to see how that translates into games."

A lefty-hitting centerfielder, Moniak projects to open the season at Single A Lakewood in the South Atlantic League. Several other members of the Phils' prospect-rich GCL team that went 41-17 last summer could also be on that club.

"The first goal is to stay healthy all year," Moniak said. "I'm a big winning guy. I don't really like to put personal stats on things. I just like to win. If I go 3 for 3 and lose or 0 for 3 and win, I'm fine with the 0 for 3 and win.

"Winning comes first. But usually, when the winning happens, all the personal stuff comes with it."

Moniak is fully aware of his significance in the Philadelphia sporting culture. He said he follows Carson Wentz and Ben Simmons, top draft picks of the Eagles and Sixers, respectively, on social media.

"We kind of came to Philadelphia at the same time and hopefully we're going to be the ones to grow old in Philadelphia and hopefully bring championships to Philadelphia, a winning tradition," he said. "I follow both of them just to see how they're doing and what they're doing."

Moniak's journey to the top level of his game won't happen as quickly as it does in others -- that's just the way baseball is -- but he projects to be a good one.

And he's clearly willing to put in the work.

The evidence is on his right palm.

Mets promote Tim Tebow to high Class A St. Lucie

Mets promote Tim Tebow to high Class A St. Lucie

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Tim Tebow is moving up and heading south -- to some very familiar territory.

Tebow has been promoted to the New York Mets' high Class A affiliate in St. Lucie, Florida. The 29-year-old Tebow led the University of Florida to two national championships in football and won the 2007 Heisman Trophy during his stellar career with the Gators.

"I'm not sure how much of an additional challenge it will be," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said Sunday in San Francisco. "Clearly it's a step up. I certainly think he can handle it."

Tebow began his first pro baseball season with Class A Columbia, drawing huge crowds at home and wherever the Fireflies went in the South Atlantic League. He entered his final Fireflies game batting .222 with three home runs and 23 RBIs.

"I wouldn't say he has excelled there, but at the same time, what he's done there -- given all the circumstances -- justified the promotion to Port St. Lucie," Alderson said.

Phillies play wait-and-see game with Jerad Eickhoff and Howie Kendrick

Phillies play wait-and-see game with Jerad Eickhoff and Howie Kendrick

PHOENIX -- Jerad Eickhoff and Howie Kendrick both tested their achy body parts on Sunday.

Eickhoff, on the disabled list with an upper back strain, threw two 15-pitch "innings" in the bullpen and was pleased with the results.

"It felt good, no sense of pulling," he said. "We'll see how it feels tomorrow."

Eickhoff's turn in the rotation will come up Wednesday in Seattle. If he can't make the start, Mark Leiter Jr. will. Leiter pitched six shutout innings in his first big-league start on Friday night.

As for Kendrick, who is battling left hamstring tightness, he was not in the starting lineup for a fourth straight game on Sunday. He did run some sprints under the watchful eye of head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan before the game.

"He still feels it, but he's available to pinch-hit," manager Pete Mackanin said.

Is this getting close to being a situation that would require a trip to the disabled list?

"Hopefully not," Mackanin said. "Hopefully he's better tomorrow. If not, I'm hoping he can at least DH in Seattle (on Tuesday). He's one of our best hitters and I want to get him in there. But I've got to be cautious."

Kendrick already spent six weeks on the disabled list with an abdominal injury earlier this season. He's played well when healthy, hitting .355 (43 for 121) with a .414 on-base percentage in 31 games.

The Phillies need to be certain that Kendrick is healthy when they turn him loose because he could hold some trade value in the month of July and a full-blown injury would hurt that.