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.

Best of MLB: Ivan Nova tosses 3-hitter as Pirates shut out Marlins

Best of MLB: Ivan Nova tosses 3-hitter as Pirates shut out Marlins

MIAMI -- Ivan Nova pitched a three-hitter and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Miami Marlins 4-0 on Saturday night.

John Jaso homered and drove in two runs, Jordy Mercer knocked in a run, and Gregory Polanco had two doubles for the Pirates, who have won three straight.

Nova (3-2) struck out seven and did not walk a batter in the 95-pitch masterpiece. He retired 11 in a row at one point.

Nova continued his impressive start to the season, which includes walking just one batter over 27 innings as he lowered his ERA to 1.50 while tossing his second complete game and the eighth of his career.

Dan Strailey (1-2) nearly matched Nova through five innings allowing only one run before running into trouble in the sixth when he allowed a base hit followed by three consecutive walks including Francisco Cervelli with the bases loaded ending his outing (see full recap).

Conforto's 2 home runs power Mets past Nationals
WASHINGTON -- Michael Conforto hit two home runs and slumping Jose Reyes also connected, leading the New York Mets over the Washington Nationals 5-3 Saturday.

The banged-up Mets had lost six in a row when they began this series at Nationals Park against the team with the best record in the majors. Behind their power and bullpen, the Mets beat Washington for the second straight day.

Conforto's two-run homer in the fifth gave the Mets a 3-1 lead and his sixth home run of the season made it 4-2 in the eighth. It was Conforto's second multihomer game in the majors -- as a rookie, he did it in Game 4 of the 2015 World Series against Kansas City.

Hansel Robles (4-0) came in to start the sixth and retired five of the six batters he faced, striking out four. Jerry Blevins then took over and fanned Bryce Harper.

Jeurys Familia, pulled Friday night in the ninth inning while Washington tried to rally, retired three straight hitters to earn his first save of the season.

Stephen Strasburg (2-1) gave up three runs in seven innings (see full recap).

Gardner busts out, Yanks hit 4 more HRs to rout Orioles
NEW YORK -- Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge and the thundering New York Yankees picked up right where they left off the previous night, steamrolling past the Baltimore Orioles 12-4 on Saturday for their fourth straight victory.

Gardner homered twice from the leadoff spot and had his first four RBIs of the season. Austin Romine, the No. 9 batter, also went deep and knocked in five runs. Judge, not to be outdone, clocked his latest colossal homer and scored four times as New York won its 14th in 17 games to boost the American League's best record to 15-7.

Michael Pineda (3-1) did not allow an earned run in 5 1/3 innings, striking out eight, and the Yankees knocked Baltimore out of first place in the AL East for the first time this season.

Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez (1-1) was tagged for a season-high seven runs -- six earned -- and five hits with three walks.

In a series-opening slugfest Friday night, the Yankees hit five homers and rallied from eight runs down for a 14-11 victory capped by Matt Holliday's three-run shot in the 10th inning (see full recap).

Instant Replay: Dodgers 6, Phillies 5

Instant Replay: Dodgers 6, Phillies 5

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES — The Phillies suffered a gut-wrenching 6-5 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday night.

The Phillies took a 5-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning but the Dodgers tied the game on three straight, no-out solo homers against Hector Neris.

The Dodgers got two more hits in the inning before Adrian Gonzalez won it with a two-out RBI infield hit against Joely Rodriguez.

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin stacked his lineup with lefty hitters and it paid off as Brock Stassi, Daniel Nava and Andrew Knapp accounted for five RBIs. But they all went by the wayside in one quick, disastrous inning.

The Phils have lost two in a row.

And this one was bad.

Starting pitching report
Zach Eflin held the Dodgers to four hits and two runs over seven walk-free innings. Both of the runs came on solo homers, one in the first inning and one in the seventh. Otherwise, Eflin retired 11 hitters by groundout and four by strikeout.

Eflin has given up just four earned runs in 19 innings over three starts this season. He has walked just three.

Brandon McCarthy gave up a season-high four runs on eight hits and a walk.

Bullpen report
Joaquin Benoit struck out Yasmani Grandal, the potential tying run, with two men on base to end the eighth inning.

Neris blew the save and took the loss.

At the plate
Stassi's second homer of the season, a three-run shot to left-center off McCarthy in the fourth, gave the Phils a 3-1 lead. He started at first in place of slumping Tommy Joseph.

Knapp started at catcher in place of Cameron Rupp. He responded with a single, double and home run. The homer was his first in the majors.

Andrew Toles led off the bottom of the first with a solo homer for the Dodgers. Rookie Cody Bellinger added a homer in the seventh.

Yasiel Puig, Bellinger and Justin Turner hit consecutive solo homers with no outs in the ninth to tie the game.

In the field
Odubel Herrera made a long run and a terrific lunging catch to take away extra bases from Puig in the fourth.

Chase Utley made an error at second base for the Dodgers.

Health check
Aaron Nola's back is still an issue. Howie Kendrick remains on the DL with an oblique injury, but he could be an option at first base when he returns if Joseph's bat continues to slumber (see story).

Up next
The three-game series concludes on Sunday afternoon. Nick Pivetta will make his major-league debut for the Phillies. He will face Dodgers lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu (0-4, 4.64).

The Phillies acquired Pivetta in the trade that sent Jonathan Papelbon to Washington in July 2015. He was 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA, 24 strikeouts and just two walks in three starts at Triple A before being called up.

Reliever Luis Garcia was optioned to Triple A Lehigh Valley after Saturday night's game to make room for Pivetta.