Can Mickey Moniak and Adam Haseley end the Phillies’ draft blues? | David Murphy
When the Phillies began rebuilding, it was presumed that their return to contention would be built on drafted and developed talent. But since 2013, they've picked five players in the top 10 and only one has become a star.
LAKELAND, Fla. -- The bus rolled to a stop a few minutes before 10 a.m., its passengers ambling down the steps and stretching their arms toward a sun that was still burning off the last of the morning chill.
Amid the mildly interested gazes of the gray-haired greeters and ushers and concessionaires, a couple of 20-something-year-old hopefuls stooped toward the vehicle’s belly and retrieved their gloves and bags. It was three hours before the first pitch of a game that could easily prove to be their last best shot of the spring.
Adam Haseley and Mickey Moniak had made this trip before. In fact, they had spent much of the previous year-and-a-half side-by-side, sharing clubhouses in Lakewood and Clearwater and, on Thursday afternoon, an outfield at Publix-Marchant Stadium for a split squad Grapefruit League game against the Tigers.
At some point in the near future, both outfielders will end up back in minor-league camp, and, when the regular season begins, there’s a chance that they could both head north to Reading.
Wherever they end up, Haseley and Moniak will remain inextricably linked.
When the Phillies began their rebuilding in earnest midway through the 2015 season, it was presumed that their eventual return to contention would be built on a foundation of drafted and developed talent, with J.P. Crawford and Aaron Nola the first two in what was projected to be a five- or six-year run of high first-round draft picks. But while the picks did indeed come, the development has yet to follow.
It is a problem that long predates the current regime. Of the Phillies’ last eight top 30 picks, only two have reached the majors on their watch.
Since 2013, they have picked six players in the top 16, five of them in the top 10. Yet only Nola has emerged as a bona fide piece of the future.
Compare that with the two teams that were most often held up as examples for the Phililes to follow.
The Cubs have gotten a total of 42 wins above replacement (per Baseball-Reference.com) from five players they selected in the top 10 between 2011 and 2015. Of their 761 runs, 560 were either scored or driven in by Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Amora, Kyle Schwarber, and Ian Happ. Likewise, the Astros have already gotten 48.7 WAR from George Springer, Carlos Correa, and Alex Bregman, selected at No. 11, No. 1, and No. 2 between 2011 and 2015.
As for the Phillies, Crawford is already gone, shipped to Seattle for pennies on the dollar after 72 games. Cornelius Randolph, the No. 10 pick in 2015, has a career .718 OPS in four minor-league seasons, including .646 last year at double-A Reading.
Which, for the moment, leaves Moniak and Haseley as the next in line.
Moniak, the No. 1 overall pick in 2016, appeared to be following a similar trajectory as recently as two months into last season, when he had 44 strikeouts, three walks, and a .486 OPS in his 172 plate appearances at high-A Clearwater. But then something changed, and Moniak finished the year hitting .303 with a .346 on-base percentage and .464 slugging percentage in his last 71 games.
“I think for me it was just going out and having fun again, kind of putting pressure aside and just saying, hey, just go out and try to help your team win,” the 20-year-old said Thursday. “The thing that I told myself was just go out and do something cool today.”
That’s a feeling to which Haseley can relate. When the Phillies selected him at No. 8 overall in 2017, the hope was that he would rise quickly through the minors.
To a certain extent, that has been the case. He ended his first full minor-league season at double-A Reading, where he posted an .880 OPS and hit six home runs in 159 plate appearances. Yet plenty of Phillies fans have noted that the two players selected immediately after him -- the Brewers’ Keston Hiura and the Angels’ Jo Adell -- are held in higher regard by the national prospect rankers.
“It was definitely harder for me when I first got drafted,” Haseley said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself to be someone who was, you know, worthy of whatever prospect status, this and that.”
There is still plenty of time for both players. In Thursday’s game against the Tigers, the natural talent was evident.
Haseley is a Scott Podsednik type with a steady line-drive swing. In his first at-bat, he laced an RBI single through the right side of the infield off Jordan Zimmermann, scoring Jean Segura from second base. He then stole second, getting a good jump on a two-strike pitch to Dylan Cozens.
Moniak, meanwhile, has packed some considerable heft onto his once thin frame. Against the Tigers, he smoked a liner into the left-center gap before a diving Daz Cameron robbed him of a double.
» READ MORE: Haseley making an impression at spring training
Still, the pressure remains. For all of the hype surrounding the Phillies’ offseason spending spree on the free-agent market, baseball’s economic landscape makes it exceedingly difficult to win World Series with money alone. Guys such as Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen were supposed to be the finishing pieces, luxury add-ons who would enhance a core of young talent getting paid at below-market rates.
Nothing about that formula has changed. It just has yet to come to fruition.
“Obviously, in the Philly sports world, the fans want to see you succeed and want to see you play hard and, speaking for him and myself, that’s just what we’re trying to do," Haseley said. "We’re trying to play hard. We’re not trying to be this next greatest thing. We’re just trying to do our job.”
The Phillies don’t necessarily need greatness. But some future production would undoubtedly help.
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