The entire armada had arrived in Encinitas, everyone who was anyone in the 2016 Philadelphia Phillies front office flew to an unassuming beach town to see the boy speeding through San Diego.
The Phillies had the first pick in this year’s draft, and La Costa Canyon’s Mickey Moniak was almost certainly their man. Former Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was there, recalled La Costa Canyon coach Justin Machado, general manager Pat Gillick, and a squad of top scouts for a routine April high school baseball game.
“It was crazy,” Moniak’s father Matt recalled. “We still barely talked about it because [Mickey] was really excited about professional ball.”
When asked about that tag outside his locker at Angel Stadium seven years later, the 25-year-old outfielder just shrugged. His cap was pulled back and his hands were in his pockets. Moniak is disarmingly casual—the honest kind, not dismissive, the kind you grew up in Encinitas sandals and board shorts.
Expectations, he pursed his lips, are expectations. People will have them—when scouting directors show up to every high school practice session, when 80 scouts watch your batting practice, when you become one of 59 first-round draft picks in history.
“To be honest, I knew they were coming,” Moniak said, recalling the day on April 14 when he played in front of the Phillies’ brigade. “But I didn’t think twice about it.”
That day, Moniak beat the cycle, going five-for-five and notching eight RBIs.
“Just a regular Mickey day,” Machado said.
There’s a long-standing slogan in the La Costa Canyon program that made Moniak smile when asked about it: “Just Cruisin’.” To him, it’s quite literal; just how they roll. But how He rolls years later, cruising through years of inconsistency and injuries while the baseball world went so sour that he was loaned out on a six-month loan from Noah Syndergaard as of last year’s deadline.
Be brilliant start This season, finally with consistent playing time, made sense. His dominance a hundred record appearances later – he hits .331 in 169 bats – makes less. He is attack places Without devotion, he goes an entirely after-the-fact walk, jumping on pitches in the zone to the tune of 11 homers and a .977 on-base plus slugging percentage.
Is this really sustainable, an approach so dominated by natural hand-eye coordination, an approach that draws its sword and defies the hordes of modern analytical thinking about batting luck? Probably not. But ask Machado: This approach has been the same since he was in high school. Just like his personality.
And now at least the conviction that Moniak has had for years is obvious: success is within reach. In him.
“I’ve definitely tried to deal with life when it comes my way,” Moniak said. “Try to be where my feet are.”
Since Moniak has started playing an hour away from home, his family usually sits on the penultimate row in Section 209 at Angel Stadium.
A while back, Mike said, former Angels player and longtime manager Bobby Valentine came to a game and sat in the row directly behind them. The two men struck up a conversation – Valentine told Moniak’s father how happy he was with his son’s success.
“I was almost in tears — I was like, ‘It’s been a long climb, Bobby,'” Mike said. “He says, ‘I know.’ ”
The numbers were never really there During the six years in Philadelphia, Moniak felt his ability to cover off-speed pitches was “not working” with mechanical tweaks. After finally making the first-day squad last season, he broke his hand.
“His demeanor never changed,” Machado said, noting that Moniak returns to Encinitas several times a week to train during the offseason. “He was always rock solid. He knew it would happen for him eventually – just be [the first pick]they expected Now. And he understood that it didn’t have to be that way.”
Moniak felt that a change of scenery made sense for both sides. Working with Angels hitting coaches Phil Plantier and Marcus Thames during the off-season has helped him load his left hip better onto the plate, opening up his stance for better fastball coverage and adaptation to off-speed pitches.
But the strikeout walk numbers are downright comically bad — five walks against 56 strikeouts after Sunday’s 7-5 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. The reason is extremely complex: Moniak does not like to go for walks. Never, ever since high school. He’ll be chasing pitches, he admits, because he’s confident he can score.
Does manager Phil Nevin want him to run more? Secure. But what isn’t broken doesn’t need to be fixed.
“He’s still going to be after the balls and I’m fine with that,” Nevin said. “He’s so aggressive when he gets up there – I don’t want to change that because he has such good hand-eye coordination… that’s what all his data and stats show at the moment.”
Life has had its ups and downs, but the greatest excitement Machado ever saw was when he beat Moniak at a round of golf.
The truth from Moniak, his father, Machado and others: Kid just hasn’t changed much since he was 17. He’s just on the go.