Pitchers Jason Groome and Riley Pint are listed as the top high school prospects for this week’s Major League Baseball Draft, but if the Philadelphia Phillies selected a prep player with the No. 1 overall pick, don’t expect it to be either of them.
Indications are the Phillies are looking for a hitter, although many mock drafts have Florida left-hander A.J. Puk going No. 1. That puts the focus on a group that includes Mercer University outfielder Kyle Lewis, Louisville outfielder Corey Ray and Tennessee third baseman Nick Senzel among college players, and La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad, Calif.) outfielder Mickey Moniak and Chaminade (Canoga Park, Calif.) outfielder Blake Rutherford among high schoolers.
“We’ve been talking to the various players, and their advisors and we’re got some final looks at some guys in the last week,” Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said. “I think the most important thing is we’re trying to prepare for an entire draft. Not just for one pick. But obviously the first pick is an important one.”
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Moniak, who is signed with UCLA, has emerged as a later entrant into the conversation for No. 1 overall. He also creates an interesting scenario because of the allotted pool money for the No. 1 overall pick. Analysts suggest he might be willing to take than the full allotment because he would still make more than if he were selected later in the Top 10.
“If a high school player goes No. 1 overall to the Phillies, it will be Mickey,” said Jim Callis, senior writer for MLB.com and MLBPipeline.com. “In this draft especially, most of the guys will move to the corners. He is someone who can stay up the middle in centerfield.
“He’s a plus defender, he can really run and he’s one of the best hitters in the draft. He doesn’t have big-time power, but he’s also not just a slappy guy. He can hit 12-15 homers. For a high school guy, he’s very polished and provides positional value and hitting ability. You’ve got a solid regular. His floor is very high and his ceiling is very high.”
La Costa Canyon coach Justin Machado says Moniak “will be a leadoff guy and a center fielder wherever he goes.
“His first step as a defender is amazing,” Machado said. “He has a nose for the ball and can read swings pretty well.”
Melissa Lockard, the MLB editor at Scout.com, said consistency is what has separated Moniak from the other high school position players.
“Every time scouts came out to see him, they seem to love him more,” she said. “You always got the same level of play. He can do everything pretty well.
“There’s not one super standout tool, but he gets good marks in pretty much every category. He looks like he can stick in centerfield, hit around .300, hit double digits in home runs and stolen bases and be a good defender. He’s shown more and more than he’s got the skill set to stay in that position and provide that kind of offense.”
A year ago at this time, the title of best high school position player belonged to Rutherford.
“I don’t think he’s slipped terribly,” Callis said. “I do think one thing people hold against him is he is 19 for a high school guy. You’re still talking about a guy winds up as a corner outfielder and profiles very well. Some team like him a little bit less than they did coming into the year, but it’s not a huge difference. It’s more Moniak pushing himself up than Rutherford pushing himself back.”
Lockard suggested Rutherford is a victim of having been so good for so long.
“When you’e the No. 1 guy for so long, it’s hard to keep people’s interest for the whole time. There tends to be some fatigue when someone has been that closely scouted for so long. There’s no reason that he falls, other than that he’s a little older than most high school seniors.”