A double-whammy of accidents and underperformance has hampered the Angels of their bid to make the playoffs earlier than Shohei Ohtani hits free company, however one shiny spot has been the play of Mickey Moniak. The previous primary choose of the 2016 draft regarded like a bust when the Phillies included him as considered one of two outfielders in final 12 months’s deadline acquisition of Noah Syndergaard, and his late-season cup of espresso in Anaheim didn’t precisely dispel that notion. However since his promotion in mid-Could, he’s been one of many majors’ most efficient hitters, producing a 170 wRC+ in 165 plate appearances.
Moniak despatched the struggling Yankees reeling with an enormous night time on Tuesday in Anaheim. Within the first inning, he clubbed a two-run homer off Domingo Germán, and whereas he struck out within the third with the bases loaded, he adopted Ohtani’s RBI triple with an RBI single within the fifth to cap the scoring at 5–1. He additionally added a single of Albert Abreu within the eighth, giving him three three-hit video games within the first 5 of the second half and increasing his hitting streak to 10 video games.
Together with a 1-for-5 night time within the Angels’ 7–3 win on Wednesday, the lefty-swinging Moniak is hitting a scorching .331/.364/.631 with 11 homers. Amongst batters with 150 PA (nearly half of quantity wanted to qualify for the batting title), his slugging proportion ranks third within the majors behind solely Ohtani and Aaron Choose, and his batting common is fourth behind Luis Arraez, Corey Seager, and Ronald Acuña Jr., along with his wRC+ additionally rating fourth at that cutoff:
MLB wRC+ Leaders, 150 PA Minimal
|Ronald Acuna Jr.||ATL||432||23||.333||.412||.590||167|
All statistics via July 19.
That’s good firm! The best way Moniak is crashing that celebration is quite exceptional, and virtually definitely unsustainable. It’s as if he’s starring in an prolonged run of Small Pattern Theater, the place his numbers are previous the purpose of stabilization however in some way defying the gravity of regression. Catch the present earlier than it leaves city.
Will probably be completely unforgivable if the Angels waste the Ohtani/Moniak years
— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) July 19, 2023
Earlier than the numbers, some historical past. The Phillies drafted Moniak out of La Costa Canyon Excessive College in Carlsbad, California. Baseball America had ranked him because the fifth-best prospect coming into the draft, writing partly, “He’s a hitter with really feel for the barrel that evokes comparisons to Christian Yelich, a fellow SoCal prep outfield product, and stable energy to the gaps.” MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis appreciated the choose, calling Moniak a participant with “one of many highest flooring within the Draft,” and including, “He’s a surefire up-the-middle-player in a Draft that doesn’t have lots of them. Moniak goes to hit. He’s going to run. He’s going to play a superb middle area.”
On reflection, the highest of that individual draft has been one thing of a dud to this point. The Dodgers’ Will Smith (chosen at no. 32) is the one first-round choose from that 12 months who has reached double digits in bWAR (used right here as a result of Baseball Reference has complete cross-linking in its database) at 13.8, with Dylan Carlson (picked thirty third by the Cardinals) second at 6.2 and Cal Quantrill (picked eighth by the Padres) third at 5.8. Even with Moniak’s scorching partial season, the highest six picks have netted 2.7 WAR, with the Reds’ Nick Senzel 1.6 WAR within the crimson, the Braves’ Ian Anderson (3.6 WAR) within the weeds as a result of management points and Tommy John surgical procedure, the Rockies’ Riley Pint and Brewers’ Corey Ray every having made only one big-league look, and the Athletics’ A.J. Puk (1.0 WAR) winding up within the bullpen after accidents.
After Moniak hit .284/.340/.409 with one homer and 10 steals in 194 PA for the Phillies’ Gulf Coast League affiliate, he ranked no. 17 on Baseball America’s High 100 Prospects Checklist within the spring of 2017, no. 19 on MLB Pipeline’s checklist, and no. 27 on FanGraphs’ checklist. Eric Longenhagen put a future grade of 70 on Moniak’s hit device, writing:
Scouts see Moniak’s slight body and marvel if he’ll ever develop into greater than 40 recreation energy, but when he hits in addition to he’s anticipated to, it isn’t going to matter. Moniak’s swing is free and easy, his really feel for shifting the bat head across the zone is superior. He’s a possible plus-plus hitter who runs nicely sufficient to play middle area, and his instincts for the place make him a possible above-average defender there.
After Moniak struggled at A-Degree Lakewood in 2017 (.236/.284/.341, 5 HR, 11 SB, 109 Ok), he fell to 88th on MLB Pipeline’s checklist and off the BA and FanGraphs lists completely, inserting simply sixth on the 2018 group checklist of the latter. “The 2017 season was a catastrophe for Moniak, whose surprising maladies on the plate (breaking-ball recognition and poor plate protection chief amongst them) have been exacerbated by his nonetheless immature body carrying down because the summer time drew on,” wrote Eric, who downgraded the hit device to a future 55 however nonetheless noticed him in a optimistic gentle: “A 100 to 105 wRC+ hitter who gives stable center-field protection is a 50/55 kind of participant.”
Moniak struggled along with his strategy as he rose to increased ranges, posting OBPs simply above .300 in each 2018 and ’19 and treading water within the context of the Phillies’ prospect checklist; he ranked tenth in 2019 as a 40+ FV however was again as much as seventh as a forty five FV in ’20 after gaining energy and homering 11 instances at hitter-friendly Studying in Double-A. He tasted main league motion in the course of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, going 3-for-14 in eight video games, however the Phillies didn’t see sufficient to present him greater than a passing look the next 12 months as they tried to fill their middle area void whereas awaiting Odúbel Herrera’s return from a home violence suspension. Moniak hit a disappointing .238/.299/.447 at Triple-A Lehigh Valley in 2021 and went simply 3-for-33 in 21 video games, primarily off the bench, in 4 separate stints with the massive membership.
Although he sank to twenty second as a 40 FV on the Phillies’ 2022 prospect checklist, Moniak’s season was a sequence of breaks. Working with new hitting coach Kevin Lengthy, he made changes to his setup throughout spring coaching; by shifting him nearer to the plate, Lengthy helped Moniak attain pitches on the outer half whereas straightening out his stride, which had been skewed towards left-center. “I hoped by being on the plate that it might routinely deal with his stride route and it did,” Lengthy instructed the Philadelphia Inquirer. “[I]t was most likely the best repair that I’ve had in my 16 years within the massive leagues… It’s form of comical.”
After a robust spring, Moniak was slated to get the majority of the middle area obligation as Herrera recuperated from a strained indirect till a Ryan Yarbrough pitch brought on a hairline fracture in his proper hand within the group’s closing exhibition recreation. He joined the Phillies in late Could after a rehab stint however was despatched to Lehigh after going simply 4-for-25 with 11 strikeouts. He went forwards and backwards two extra instances — operating his profession complete with the Phillies to 13 — earlier than being dealt to the Angels within the Syndergaard commerce. As Ben Clemens famous, “If he clicks, Moniak will achieve this as an influence/common menace, however I’m skeptical of that taking place given his downright terrifying swing-and-miss numbers. Perhaps he can determine one thing out, provided that he’s solely 24, however until one thing modifications, he received’t hit sufficient to place collectively a median offensive line.” In his roundup of traded prospects, Eric summarized him as, “Former no. 1 total choose who now seems like a fifth outfielder.”
Including harm to that insult, Moniak performed simply 5 video games, homering twice, with the Angels earlier than struggling one other fracture on August 7, this time of the tip of his left center finger whereas attempting to bunt. After a month-long absence, he went simply 8-for-46 with one stroll and 20 strikeouts upon returning.
Thus Moniak entered his age-25 season with a profession batting line of .151/.197/.273 (26 wRC+) with 4 homers and -0.6 WAR in 149 PA. The Angels, set with an outfield of Taylor Ward, Mike Trout, and Hunter Renfroe, stashed him and struggling post-hype prospect Jo Adell at Triple-A Salt Lake Metropolis. Moniak stored working to enhance, implementing Angels assistant hitting coach Phil Plantier’s solutions directed at opening up his stance, protecting his head again, and lowering his tendency to swing and miss. After a stable .277/.341/.518 at hitter-friendly SLC, Monak was recalled on Could 13. He spent most of his first eight weeks recognizing for the underwhelming Ward and Renfroe in opposition to righties in each outfield corners. Since Trout suffered a fractured hamate, Moniak has taken over middle area, hitting hit .395/.435/.558 in 46 PA, although the Angels have gone simply 4–6.
Moniak’s scorching season stats, which have been aided by his being shielded from lefties (he’s acquired simply 21 PA and two hits in opposition to them), comprise some interconnected absurdities, most notably a gaudy 30.3% strikeout fee and a ridiculous .427 BABIP. The strikeout fee stems partly from him chasing a whopping 49.4% of pitches exterior the zone. That didn’t come from nowhere; he had a 44.1% chase fee in his varied stints previous to this season. It’s clearly a bit increased this 12 months, increased than all however one different main league hitter with no less than 150 PA, and the eighth-highest of the previous decade at that cutoff:
Highest O-Swing%, 2014-23
All statistics via July 19. Minimal 150 plate appearances.
Two issues stand out. First, Moniak’s swinging-strike fee can be extraordinarily excessive — tops this 12 months and 14th for the previous decade at that 150 PA minimal. Second, many of the gamers chasing at this clip didn’t even handle league-average manufacturing. Moniak and Diaz, a rookie catcher with the Astros, are the one ones with a wRC+ of 100 or higher, and each are on the decrease finish of the PA vary. In the meantime, of the 25 gamers with a swinging-strike fee of 20% or increased, he’s considered one of simply 4 with a wRC+ of 100 or increased, joined by the 2021 variations of Javier Báez (21.7% in 547 PA however a 117 wRC+) and Luke Voit (20.2% in 241 PA, with a 112 wRC+), and this 12 months’s mannequin of Joey Gallo (20.4% in 251 PA, with a 112 wRC+).
Even along with his transfer nearer to the plate, Moniak is extra vulnerable to chasing pitches off the within nook than the skin nook, although many of the whiffs are approaching pitches under quite than above the zone.
Contact with these pitches isn’t serving Moniak nicely. In 65 PA through balls exterior the strike zone coming into Wednesday, he’s hit .140 and slugged .211 for a .218 wOBA, with 5 of his eight hits through changeups; he’s 1-for-22 on breaking balls and 1-for-21 on four-seamers and sinkers. His whiff fee in opposition to fastballs exterior the zone is 48%, and in opposition to different pitch varieties it ranges from 52% to 64%. In the meantime, he’s strolling simply 3% of the time.
Moniak’s zone contact fee of 79.1% is about six factors under the foremost league common, however when he connects, wow: His .435 AVG, .905 SLG and .569 wOBA all lead the majors amongst these with no less than 50 PA on pitches within the strike zone:
Highest wOBA on Pitches within the Strike Zone
|Luis Robert Jr.||CHW||235||81||26||.351||.332||.762||.706||.464||.436|
SOURCE: Baseball Savant
Minimal 50 plate appearances on pitches within the strike zone. All stats via July 18. Yellow = leads league.
Moniak leads the three precise classes, with Choose tops in two of the three anticipated classes (Acuña Jr. leads in xBA within the zone at .386). You’d definitely anticipate his numbers to say no as his pattern measurement will increase, however observe that he’s already banked almost as many homers as a number of the gamers with double the PAs within the break up.
Mix Moniak’s dreadful numbers when swinging at pitches exterior the zone along with his bonkers numbers on these contained in the zone, and also you get a .427 BABIP; he had the Wild Card-era lead till Wednesday night time, when the Twins’ Julien (.432) surpassed him.
Moniak isn’t hitting the ball particularly laborious. His 88.5 mph common exit velocity would rank within the thirty third percentile if he had sufficient batted ball occasions to qualify, and his 35.5% hard-hit fee within the twenty fourth. That stated, his 15% barrel fee would place within the 93rd percentile. You don’t discover these form of pairings within the wild. He’s not laborious to identify on this scatter plot of the hard-hit charges of batters with barrel charges inside two proportion factors in both route (13%–17%):
All instructed, taking the great with the unhealthy, Moniak is nicely forward of his .278 xBA, .539 xSLG, and .363 xwOBA (his total wOBA is .419), however I don’t assume for a minute that both he or the Angels could be sad if he have been merely to match these anticipated numbers over a bigger pattern even in a platoon position. What Moniak is doing is unimaginable, inconceivable, and, as ought to be fairly clear from these comparisons, virtually definitely unsustainable. Get pleasure from this tear whereas it lasts; he’s another reason to keep watch over the Angels whereas Trout is out and Ohtani continues to be on the roster.