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High School Player Of The Year: Moniak’s Bat Does The Talking

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Mickey Moniak (Photo by Bill Mitchell) Scouts love Mickey Moniak’s bat—and glove in center field—and that he tends to rise to the occasion (Photo by Bill Mitchell)[/caption]

Justin Machado and Matt Moniak go way back. They were high school baseball teammates, and they’ve remained close. They’ve even vacationed together. Justin, who is the head coach at La Costa Canyon High in Carlsbad, Calif., remembers fondly one excursion, a surfing trip to Fiji.

Player Of The Year
1992 Preston Wilson, of/rhp, Bamberg-Ehrhardt (S.C.) HS
1993 Trot Nixon, of/lhp, New Hanover HS, Wilmington, N.C.
1994 Doug Million, lhp, Sarasota (Fla.) HS
1995 Ben Davis, c, Malvern (Pa.) Prep
1996 Matt White, rhp, Waynesboro Area (Pa.) HS
1997 Darnell McDonald, of, Cherry Creek HS, Englewood, Colo.
1998 Drew Henson, 3b/rhp, Brighton (Mich.) HS
1999 Josh Hamilton, of/lhp, Athens Drive HS, Raleigh, N.C.
2000 Matt Harrington, rhp, Palmdale (Calif.) HS
2001 Joe Mauer, c, Cretin-Derham Hall HS, St. Paul, Minn.
2002 Sott Kazmir, lhp, Cypress Falls HS, Houston
2003 Jeff Allison, rhp, Veterans Memorial HS, Peabody, Mass.
2004 Homer Bailey, rhp, LaGrange (Texas) HS
2005 Justin Upton, ss, Great Bridge HS, Chesapeake, Va.
2006 Adrian Cardenas, ss/2b, Monsignor Pace HS, Opa Locka, Fla.
2007 Mike Moustakas, ss, Chatsworth (Calif.) HS
2008 Ethan Martin, rhp/3b, Stephens County HS, Toccoa, Ga.
2009 Bryce Harper, c, Las Vegas HS
2010 Kaleb Cowart, 3b/rhp, Cook HS, Adel, Ga.
2011 Dylan Bundy, rhp, Owasso (Okla.) HS
2012 Byron Buxton, of, Appling County HS, Baxley, Ga.
2013 Clint Frazier, of, Loganville (Ga.) HS
2014 Alex Jackson, of, Rancho Bernardo HS, San Diego
2015 Kyle Tucker, of, Plant HS, Tampa
2016 Mickey Moniak, of, La Costa Canyon High, Carlsbad, Calif.

The Machado family is really into surfing. Justin’s brother Rob is one of the most famous surfers in the world. It would have been easy for Justin to get lost in the waves, but on that particular trip, Justin recalls watching a young Mickey Moniak in his element.

“I actually saw him play Wiffle ball on the beach with a bunch of other kids,” Machado said, “and I remember thinking ‘That kid looks pretty damn good.’ ”

Several years later, Moniak is one of the best amateur prospects in the land, and he’s the Baseball America High School Player of the Year for 2016.

In his senior season at La Costa Canyon, Moniak hit .476 (50-for-105), smacking six home runs and barreling a San Diego record 12 triples. In arguably the most competitive high school environment in the country, with hoards of scouts watching every game and every practice, Moniak not only kept his cool, but he elevated his game.

Magic Wand

The one knock on Moniak from scouts entering this spring was that he had not hit for much power—but that changed this year. He hit the weight room and packed on additional muscle. “I felt a lot stronger than I have in previous years, and I think that showed a little bit when it came to the power side of things,” Moniak said.

Though his six home runs don’t necessarily point toward a future of exceptional power, the sting that Moniak’s bat inflicts on baseballs has gotten stronger. He’s able to hit the ball with more authority.

Machado said that the dimensions of La Costa Canyon’s home field are bigger than what can be found at many major league parks. “If he played at some other field in our league, he probably would have hit 12-15 (home runs),” Machado said.

With his jolt of power, Moniak became a true five-tool talent. He’s a gifted defender in center field. He has speed and he can throw, though some scouts consider his arm fringe-average.

His ability to hit is universally lauded, however, and the Phillies chose Moniak with the first overall pick of the 2016 draft. He joins three others—Josh Hamilton (1999), Joe Mauer (2001) and Justin Upton (2005)—to win the High School POY award and be selected No. 1 overall in the draft.

“We put a 7 on the bat—a future 7,” said Phillies scouting director Johnny Alamaraz, using the 2-to-8 scouting scale, “We see potential for him hitting 15-22 home runs. We see a perennial all-star, a leader, someone you can build around.”

Moniak also stepped forward when the crowds were the largest, and general managers and scouting directors came to watch. Moniak excelled at the 2016 Boras Classic, an event that pits the top high school teams in California against each other.

“I always thrived, ever since I was young, on the big stage,” Moniak said. “It’s fun, having that extra challenge of playing in front of a lot of people and them getting to watch you play and all that.”

Been Here For Years

Moniak first realized that he had potential when he made the varsity squad at La Costa Canyon as a freshman, when he was scrawny, undersized and not in the same place physically as some of the upperclassmen he was sharing a dugout with. Nevertheless, Moniak fit in right away.

“He just always let his play do the talking for him, and they respected him right off the bat,” Machado said. “He won their respect right off the bat and was able to just be one of the dudes.

“We knew he was good, but we didn’t know if he would fit in with the program at that age. He was fairly small. Then a couple things happened throughout the spring, and he made the team and actually about a third or halfway through the year, he kind of won a starting role and it just kind of progressed from there. That was when we knew he was going to be something special.”

It’d be easy for an 18-year-old to get caught up in this kind of glory. No one would blame Moniak if he came through this process with diminished humility. But that hasn’t happened. In fact, Moniak pointed to maintaining a winning attitude—evident last summer when he helped push USA Baseball’s 18U team to a gold medal in the World Junior Championships in Japan—as key to his prep success.

“I think it’s my will to win, not putting individual achievements over the team goal,” Moniak said. “You know, the main thing for me—and the main thing for every baseball player who’s playing on a team—should be to win a baseball game.”

Moniak’s career is just getting started, but he accomplished quite a bit as an amateur.

But Moniak is a team player. He knows how he’ll have to approach the game to succeed at the next level. And he’s ready to embrace the challenges ahead of him.

“Personally, I’d rather go 0-for-4 and win then go 4-for-4 with four home runs and lose,” he said. “I think that whole mindset is what separates the good players from the great players.”

Mickey Moniak Gettyimages

Spring Training MLB Prospect Report—March 5, 2021

Prospect standouts from Thursday's slate of spring training games, including Mickey Moniak, Jarren Duran and Ke'Bryan Hayes.

Moniak was a great high school player, and now he has a chance to be a great professional.

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