Reasons why you should have gone to UCLA.
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – The difference was striking.
When Mickey Moniak arrived in Philadelphia to sign his first professional contract six months ago, he was rail-thin and 170 pounds.
On Tuesday night, Moniak made a quick visit to the winter meetings to be honored as Baseball America’s high school player of the year for 2016.
He’d added 20 pounds to his 6-foot-2 frame.
“It’s all muscle,” Moniak said proudly.
The Phillies selected Moniak with the first pick in the June draft and signed him for $6.1 million. Just a few months of professional baseball convinced the 18-year-old centerfielder that he needed to get stronger. He recently capped off his first year of pro ball with a three-week stint at the Phillies’ strength and conditioning camp in Clearwater.
“It’s something the Phillies wanted me to do and I knew I definitely needed it, too,” Moniak said. “I really enjoyed my first year. I got a taste of what it was like to play baseball for a job and it was a good time.
“There were a lot of positives that came out of the first year. I felt like I jumped in there and really competed. I hit well in July. In August, I started to fatigue and I wasn’t prepared for that, being my first season. But it was a good learning experience. I needed to get stronger.”
Moniak hit .284 with a .340 on-base percentage, 11 doubles, four triples, a homer and 28 RBIs in 46 games for the Phillies’ prospect-stacked Gulf Coast League team. That club, loaded with young Latin players and first-year talent from the 2016 draft, went 41-17 and advanced to the finals of the league playoffs before losing to the Cardinals.
After the playoffs, many of the players from that club participated in the Florida instructional league. Moniak played sparingly, however, after dealing with some soreness in his right hip. He was checked out by doctors in Philadelphia and there are no more concerns.
“It was just tightness,” Moniak said. “Everything is good. I’m 100 percent. They said it was either a growing pain or just tightness. I just have to stretch more.”
Moniak is an athletic centerfielder with speed and a good left-side bat. He has been compared favorably to former All-Star Steve Finley.
"Collectively, we believe Mickey was the best player available in the draft," Johnny Almaraz, the Phillies head of amateur scouting, said on draft night in June. "He's a true centerfielder with incredible offensive ability and the potential to be a perennial All-Star."
Moniak hit .476 with seven homers, 12 triples and four doubles at La Costa Canyon High School in Carlsbad, California, during his senior season. He impressed a rival scout who saw him play five times during the season.
“The bat is good,” the scout said. “He’s going to hit and hit for average. He’s a good centerfielder. He can run. The question is how many home runs will he hit? If he ends up getting stronger, he could be a corner bat that’s unbelievable. There’s no negative here. It’s a good pick.”
Now, Moniak is stronger. He looked sturdy in a dress shirt and tie at the winter meetings Tuesday night. He is eager to see how it all translates on the field in 2017.
“I’m excited for the season,” he said. “I’m just going to go to spring training and compete and hopefully end up in (Single A) Lakewood, stay healthy and hopefully have a winning season and win a championship. That’s the ultimate goal and if personal stats come with that, too, that’s great.”
The Eagles will get a boost on Wednesday as they begin to prepare for Washington and a chance to snap a three-game losing streak.
Their top running back and receiver – Ryan Mathews (knee) and Jordan Matthews (ankle) – will both practice.
Ryan Mathews, who suffered an MCL sprain against Seattle, has missed the last two weeks. Jordan Matthews, who hurt his ankle against the Packers, missed the Bengals game. It was the first game he had ever missed in his collegiate and NFL career.
“He’s good to play,” head coach Doug Pederson said about Ryan Mathews. “We’ll find out today, but he’s cleared and ready to go.”
In the two weeks without Mathews in the lineup, the Eagles had their two worst rushing performances of the season: 81 yards against the Packers and 53 against the Bengals.
Obviously, getting behind in those games skewed those numbers plenty. But it should still be a boost to get Mathews back.
“We fell behind so it gets us out of that mode a little bit,” Pederson said. “But I like where we’re at. I do lean on that offensive line quit a bit. I do talk to them during the week and say hey this might be the week that we need to rush the ball 30-35 times and they’re up for the challenge, obviously.
“With the addition of Ryan coming back, it gives us depth and a bigger [running back] back there and hopefully we can get back to running the ball like we did a few weeks ago.”
With Jordan Matthews out against Cincinnati, undrafted rookie Paul Turner made the most of his opportunity. He caught six passes for 80 yards, while playing in the slot.
Pederson said that even with Jordan Matthews’ returning, the Eagles will still try to find ways to keep Turner involved.
The team will practice indoors on Wednesday because the fields at the NovaCare Complex are too saturated thanks to Tuesday's constant rain.