LAKEWOOD, N.J. - Regardless of what he achieves during his baseball career, Mickey Moniak will always carry the label of being the No. 1 overall selection in the 2016 draft.
Nearing the year anniversary of his selection by the Phillies, the former star at La Costa Canyon High in Carlsbad, Calif., is more than holding his own playing in low A for the Lakewood BlueClaws in New Jersey.
And the center-field prospect leads the team in one unofficial category: most interview requests. Invariably the subject turns to how he is handling the pressure of being the first player selected in the draft. Moniak, who bats lefthanded and throws righthanded, answers that he feels none.
"I am not going out there and put pressure on myself. It is only going to hurt me," he said.
Moniak is one of two overall No. 1 selections in the Phillies organization. The other is Lehigh Valley righthander Mark Appel, who was taken first overall by the Houston Astros in 2013.
Last year, when Appel was rehabbing in Florida after having season-ending surgery to remove a bone spur in his elbow, he was around Moniak and other young players from the Phillies' Gulf Coast League team. Appel came away impressed with Moniak.
"Mickey is a guy who works hard, and he doesn't want to assume that anything will be handed to him," Appel said.
Appel added that he didn't discuss the inherent pressure of living up to the No. 1 billing with Moniak. Every situation is different, he said, and he cited Carlos Correa, the No. 1 overall pick in 2012.
"I played with Carlos Correa, and he really didn't struggle much in the minors," Appel said. "Every level he kind of performed and exceeded expectations in being younger than everybody. So it is different paths for different people."
Moniak turned 19 on May 13, and those around him are impressed with his poise and ability. According to Baseball America, Moniak entered the season as the ninth-youngest player in the South Atlantic League.
"I think the big thing that stands out to me is how he handles himself on a daily basis and how he comes to the ballpark ready to play every day," Lakewood manager Marty Malloy said. "And you don't see a change in him if he is 0 for 4 or 4 for 4."
This is Moniak's first full season. Last year, after he was drafted, Moniak played 45 games for the Phillies Gulf Coast League team, hitting .287 with 11 doubles and 10 stolen bases. Now he is the first overall No. 1 pick to play in the South Atlantic League since Bryce Harper in 2011 with Hagerstown, Md.
This season is a test of endurance, when the bus rides can be extremely long. But that hasn't bothered Moniak. According to a BlueClaws official, their longest trip this season was 13 hours to Charleston, S.C. A trip to Rome, Ga., later this season is expected to be 15 hours.
"It's not bad. You get your own little bed," Moniak said. "I turn on Netflix a little bit, go to sleep, and usually when you wake up we are there."
Playing every day is something Moniak said he felt prepared for. He estimates that with high school and travel ball he had already played approximately 100 games per year. The BlueClaws play 140 games.
At 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds, Moniak said the Phillies had him work on weight training in the offseason, and he said he benefited from it.
He had one home run in the Gulf Coast League and had two with Lakewood entering Thursday. In 179 at-bats, Moniak was hitting .279 with 10 doubles, four triples, 22 RBIs, a .747 OPS, and five stolen bases in eight attempts.
"He has shown true gap power to right-center and left-center, and at 19 years old he is still getting there," Malloy said. "I don't see why he can't be a 15-20 home-run guy at the next level."
One scout who has seen Moniak with Lakewood agreed.
"The ball jumps off his bat, and I think he is going to be a very good hitter, and the power will come," the scout said. "When you look at it, he is such a young kid, and it's hard to play in that league, playing against some 23-, 24-year-olds."
"I feel I have held my own, and I feel comfortable," Moniak said. "I am enjoying playing with my teammates. We have a good team, and it's been fun."