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MLB 2019 Power Ranking: Mid-September

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The Oakland Athletics ascend to the top of the MLB Power Rankings as we head down the stretch

 

For the fourth straight period, my hometown Philadelphia Phillies find themselves at 14th overall in the 2019 MLB Power Rankings as we reach the stretch run in the middle of September.

The club also remains ranked in the 7th position among teams from the National League. Sitting at four games behind the 9th-ranked Chicago Cubs in the actual race for the final NL Wildcard playoff berth, the Phillies 2019 season is now officially on life support. They still have not won five games in a row all year long.

The Phillies embark on a three-city, 11-game road trip taking them to Atlanta (3), Cleveland (3) and Washington (5) leading up to a season-ending series at Citizens Bank Park against the Miami Marlins. The Fish have the worst record in the National League, but sport a winning 9-7 mark against the Phillies this season.

As stated each period, my own  feelings have no input into these MLB Power Rankings. Instead, each team’s position is all about actual performance: their results in the standings, as well as key statistical categories.

RANKINGS METHODOLOGY

My formula for compiling the rankings is always being researched to see if it can be improved upon.

Currently, that formula is made up of the following categories: winning percentage, runs-per-gameOPS against, and “Defensive runs saved” as measured at Fangraphs.

However, as the current season has unfolded, some teams have improved dramatically while others have slipped. So, here in September, overall winning percentage has been replaced by each team’s win percentage over their most recent 30 games.

The ‘Win-Loss’ component reflects each team’s ability to actually win ball games. ‘OPS against’ reflects a pitching staff’s ability to control the game and limit damage.

The runs-per-game component acknowledges that teams play various numbers of games as of the time of each ranking. For example, it wouldn’t be fair to consider a club that had scored 100 runs over 50 games as effective as a club who scored 100 runs over just 45 games.

Each club’s place in the four component categories gets them assigned a 1-30 numerical value. Those are added up to determine a final ranking points total.

Where there are any ties, those are broken using each team’s winning percentage over the last 30, and then by their current overall winning percentage since, in the end, winning is what it’s all about.

2019 SEPTEMBER 16 –  MLB RANKINGS

The Oakland Athletics have made a dramatic surge up the Power Rankings over the course of the summer. At 8th place in the first rankings back on June 1, Oakland fell to 12th on June 15.

But then by July 1, the A’s had risen to become the 5th-ranked ball club. They have remained in the top five ever since, finishing as runners-up to the Houston Astros on Labor Day.

Houston ranked first back on both June 15 and July 1, then returned to the top on Labor Day, and now flip places with Oakland.

The Los Angeles Dodgers were the National League’s top team for most of the summer. But on Labor Day they were passed by the Atlanta Braves. Now, both Atlanta and the red-hot Saint Louis Cardinals are ahead of the Dodgers among the NL ball clubs.

The Dodgers, however, have clinched their seventh consecutive NL West Division crown. The following are the “Magic Number” for each team to clinch their respective division title:

AL East: New York – 3, AL Central: Minnesota – 9, AL West: Houston – 5, NL East: Atlanta – 4, NL Central: Saint Louis – 12. Teams have between 11 and 13 games remaining on their 2019 regular season schedules.

In addition, each league’s Wildcard race features three teams within three games of one another in the loss column in the battle for two available spots. In the AL those are Oakland (60), Tampa Bay (62) and Cleveland (63), while in the NL the teams are Washington (66), Chicago (68) and Milwaukee (69).

In parentheses below are each team’s total ranking points this period, as well as their place in the last Power Rankings back on Labor Day.

  1. Oakland Athletics (15-2)
  2. Houston Astros (23-1)
  3. Atlanta Braves (28-3)
  4. Saint Louis Cardinals (33-6)
  5. Minnesota Twins (33-5)
  6. Los Angeles Dodgers (35-4)
  7. Washington Nationals (37-7)
  8. Tampa Bay Rays (37-11)
  9. Chicago Cubs (37-12)
  10. New York Yankees (39-9)
  11. Boston Red Sox (42-13)
  12. Cleveland Indians (42-10)
  13. Arizona Diamondbacks (42-8)
  14. Philadelphia Phillies (52-14)
  15. Milwaukee Brewers (65-19)
  16. New York Mets (65-15)
  17. San Diego Padres (68-16)
  18. Los Angeles Angels (70-17)
  19. Cincinnati Reds (71-18)
  20. Texas Rangers (74-20)
  21. San Francisco Giants (74-21)
  22. Kansas City Royals (80-23)
  23. Colorado Rockies (81-24)
  24. Pittsburgh Pirates (89-22)
  25. Seattle Mariners (90-28)
  26. Toronto Blue Jays (95-25)
  27. Miami Marlins (95-26)
  28. Chicago White Sox (99-27)
  29. Baltimore Orioles (107-29)
  30. Detroit Tigers (113-30)

The next MLB Power Rankings will be the final for the 2019 regular season. They will be released here following the final game of the regular season.

However, if there are any play-in games for a Wildcard berth, the final rankings will include and be released following any such game(s) played.

MLB 2019 Power Ranking – Labor Day

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The Philadelphia Phillies find themselves once again at 14th overall in the 2019 MLB Power Rankings as we push past the Labor Day weekend and move into the final month of September.

In this early September version of the Power Rankings, the Phillies remain right where they were on both August 1 and August 15 among all teams in Major League Baseball. They also remain as the 7th ranked team in the National League.

On August 1, the Phillies were the sixth-highest ranked team and were involved in a three-way tie for the two NL Wildcard spots. They slipped a notch by mid-August, to seventh in the NL, and the standings continue to reflect that slippage.

The club remains two games in back of the second National League Wildcard playoff berth. That is exactly where they stood on August 15, showing just how difficult it is to make up ground without going on an extended winning streak. The Phillies still have not won five games in a row all year long.

The Phillies are now in the midst of a September stretch that has them playing 18 of 23 games on the road. That will lead up to a season-ending series at Citizens Bank Park against the Miami Marlins, who have played the Phillies tough all year.

The Cubs are the team in the second Wildcard spot. That is where the attention of Phillies fans who are still holding out hope of a 2019 postseason berth now needs to focus. The Phillies trail Chicago by two games in the loss column as of this moment.

My own personal feelings never have anything to do with the MLB Power Rankings. Instead, the rank is all about actual team performance: results in the standings and statistical breakdowns.

I take what I have found to be key statistical categories and rank each of the 30 teams in Major League baseball on their ability to win ball games and perform on offense, the pitching mound, and in the field.

There is never any subjectivity or opinion involved. The MLB Power Rankings will again be updated here at my website on the 15th of September, with a final ranking to come at the end of the regular season using the following methodology.

RANKINGS METHODOLOGY

Introduced and then upgraded during the course of last season, my formula for compiling the rankings is always being researched to see if it can be improved upon.

That formula carried two categories over from the 2018 season: winning percentage and OPS against. However, as the current season has unfolded, some teams have improved dramatically while others have slipped.

So, for this month of September that “winning percentage” is being replaced. Instead, to get the ‘Win-Loss’ component, each team’s record over their most recent 30 games is being used.

The ‘Win-Loss’ component is simple, reflecting each team’s ability to actually win ball games. The second reflects a pitching staff’s ability to control the game and limit damage.

Also for the 2019 season, runs-per-game replaced last year’s “runs scored” in order to get the offensive component. This was an acknowledgement of the fact that teams play various numbers of games as of the time of each ranking. For example, it wouldn’t be fair to consider a club that had scored 100 runs over 50 games as effective as a club who scored 100 runs over just 45 games.

Earlier this summer, the defensive component was changed as well. The defensive metric beginning with the July 15 rankings was switched to “Defensive runs saved” as measured at Fangraphs, replacing the previous “fielding percentage” to gauge a team’s defensive effectiveness.

I then assign each of those four component category team rankings a 1-30 numerical value, and simply add those values up to determine an overall final ratings score. Where there were any ties, I broke those using each team’s current overall winning percentage since, in the end, winning is what it’s all about.

2019 SEPTEMBER 4 –  MLB RANKINGS

The Houston Astros, who were ranked first back on both June 15 and July 1, return to the top of the Power Rankings. The Los Angeles Dodgers, who were at the top in my last rankings back on August 15 and have been the National League’s top team all year, have slipped.

The Atlanta Braves are now the new top team in the National League. The Braves and Washington Nationals, who have moved into the overall top ten for the first time this season, are tied for baseball’s best record over the last 30 games.

In parentheses are each team’s total ranking points this period, as well as their place in the last Power Rankings back on August 15.

  1. Houston Astros (24 – 2)
  2. Oakland Athletics (25 – 4)
  3. Atlanta Braves (27 – 9)
  4. Los Angeles Dodgers (31 – 1)
  5. Minnesota Twins (31 – 3)
  6. Saint Louis Cardinals (32 – 12)
  7. Washington Nationals (33 – 13)
  8. Arizona Diamondbacks (35 – 8)
  9. New York Yankees (37 – 7)
  10. Cleveland Indians (38 – 5)
  11. Tampa Bay Rays (39 – 6)
  12. Chicago Cubs (40 – 10)
  13. Boston Red Sox (43 – 11)
  14. Philadelphia Phillies (53 – 14)
  15. New York Mets (65 – 19)
  16. San Diego Padres (65 – 18)
  17. Los Angeles Angels (68 – 15)
  18. Cincinnati Reds (71 – 17)
  19. Milwaukee Brewers (72 – 16)
  20. Texas Rangers (78 – 21)
  21. San Francisco Giants (79 – 20)
  22. Pittsburgh Pirates (83 – 28)
  23. Kansas City Royals (84 – 22)
  24. Colorado Rockies (88 – 23)
  25. Toronto Blue Jays (89 – 25)
  26. Miami Marlins (92 – 24)
  27. Chicago White Sox (93 – 26)
  28. Seattle Mariners (93 – 27)
  29. Baltimore Orioles (109 – 29)
  30. Detroit Tigers (112 – 30)

Phillies now must buck the odds to make the playoffs

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For a second straight August, it all feels like it’s falling apart for a Philadelphia Phillies season that once appeared destined to end in October.

The Phillies lost to the San Francisco Giants by a 3-1 score on Saturday afternoon. It was the club’s fourth defeat in five games, their sixth in the last nine. They are 2-4 on a western swing through Arizona and NoCal that will end this afternoon by the bay.
This most recent losing stretch is part of a 27-35 performance since late May, one that has dropped the team from the top of the National League East Division standings into fourth place.

It’s not just that the Phillies are losing in San Francisco – they aren’t even showing up to play. Just three hits in yesterday afternoon’s defeat. One hit in Thursday night’s series opening loss to the Giants.

As recently as their postgame statements at the start of this past week, Phillies players were clinging to the hope provided by the standings. Fact was, they still controlled a National League Wildcard playoff berth.
That is no longer the case. The Phillies woke up on Sunday morning at two games behind both the Saint Louis Cardinals and Washington Nationals in the loss column. They also trail both the Milwaukee Brewers and New York Mets in that Wildcard race.
The stats show that the Phillies have earned this position. They have a -30 run differential. They are just 18th of the 30 MLB ball clubs in runs scored per game. The pitching staff is 22nd in batting average against and 23rd in OPS against.
In short, the Phillies are not a good baseball team right now, and they haven’t been one for a few months.
All of this is reflected in the updated Fangraphs MLB playoff odds. Taking a wide variety of factors into consideration, Fangraphs now ranks three teams from the NL East as having better than even odds of reaching the postseason. None of those is the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Atlanta Braves, who hold a five game lead in the loss column in the division race, have a 98.1% chance of reaching the playoffs. The second place Washington Nationals are at 67.8%. And now, the red-hot New York Mets are rated as having a 53% chance at the postseason.
The Phillies? They now have a miniscule 8.8% chance at making the playoffs. Their odds at winning a Wildcard spot are at 8.5%, and actually roaring back to win the division at just 0.3%. The Phillies odds to win the World Series are at a nearly impossible 0.1% level.
So, if the Phillies are going to reach the Major League Baseball postseason for the first time in eight years, they are going to need a major hot streak. At this point, that would be seriously bucking the odds.

MLB 2019 Power Rankings: Minnesota Twins take over the top spot

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The Minnesota Twins outfielders celebrate another victory

The Philadelphia Phillies have sat pretty much right in the middle of the MLB Power Rankings since I began producing them for 2019.

From June 1 (15th), through June 15 (14th) and on to July 1, when they ranked in the #18 slot the last time around, the rankings have not revealed much movement at all.
The Phillies currently sit in the #16 spot, buoyed by their defensive play, which ranks fourth in all of baseball. With a middling (15th) offense, what is truly weighing the club down and keeping them from seriously competing is their 25th ranked pitching staff.
As always, my own personal feelings have nothing to do with the MLB Power Rankings published here at Phillies Nation. Instead, the rank is all about actual results and statistical performances.
There is never any subjectivity on my part. I always take key statistics and rank each of the 30 teams in Major League baseball on their ability to actually win ball games as well as their performance on offense, on the pitching mound, and in the field.
The MLB Power Rankings are going to be updated at Phillies Nation on roughly the 1st and 15th of the month for the remainder of the regular season using the following methodology.

RANKINGS METHODOLOGY

Introduced and then upgraded during the course of last season, my formula for compiling the rankings is always being researched to see if it can be improved upon. That formula carries two categories over from the 2018 season: winning percentage and OPS against. The first is simple, reflecting each team’s ability to actually win ball games. The second reflects a pitching staff’s ability to control damage.
As of my first ranking in this 2019 season, runs-per-game replaced simple “runs scored” in order to get the offensive component. This acknowledged the fact that teams play various numbers of games as of the time of each ranking. It wouldn’t be fair to consider a club that had scored 100 runs over 50 games as effective as a club who scored 100 runs over just 45 games.
There has now been a new update to the methodology. The new defensive metric will be the “Defensive runs saved” as measured at Fangraphs, replacing simple “fielding percentage” to gauge a team’s defensive competence.
I then assign each of those component category team rankings a 1-30 numerical value and simply add those values up to determine an overall final ratings score. Where there was a tie, it is broken by win-loss percentage, then by runs-per-game, followed by pitching OPS.

2019 JULY 15 –  MLB RANKINGS

The new team at the top of the rankings are the Minnesota Twins, who were my Spotlight Team accompanying the June 1 rankings piece. The Twins are MLB’s surprise team this season. Many predicted they would be a playoff contender. I had them finishing second in the AL Central Division in my own 2019 MLB preview and predictions back in late March.
The hot risers are the Cleveland Indians, who have moved into a tie for an AL Wildcard playoff slot, and the Los Angeles Angels, who have rallied together in the wake of the tragic sudden death of starting pitcher Tyler Skaggs to win seven of their last 10 games to move back over the .500 mark.
On the down side, the Colorado Rockies have lost nine of 11, fallen below the .500 mark, and plummeted eight spots in the rankings from the start of July. The Milwaukee Brewers have lost eight of 10 to drop out of first place in the NL Central. The Brew Crew also have slipped in every one of my Power Rankings, a troubling sign for a team still sitting in contention for both that division crown and an NL Wildcard berth.
In parentheses are the team’s positions from the June 1, June 15 and July 1 rankings, shown in that order from left to right.
  1. Minnesota Twins (2-2-3)
  2. Los Angeles Dodgers (1-3-2)
  3. Oakland Athletics (8-12-5)
  4. Tampa Bay Rays (4-4-4)
  5. Houston Astros (3-1-1)
  6. New York Yankees (5-8-9)
  7. Chicago Cubs (10-13-11)
  8. Boston Red Sox (6-6-10)
  9. Arizona Diamondbacks (9-5-6)
  10. Cleveland Indians (18-18-15)
  11. Los Angeles Angels (19-17-19)
  12. Atlanta Braves (12-9-7)
  13. Washington Nationals (24-19-13)
  14. Saint Louis Cardinals (14-15-14)
  15. Texas Rangers (16-11-8)
  16. Philadelphia Phillies (15-14-18)
  17. San Diego Padres (17-20-20)
  18. Cincinnati Reds (13-16-17)
  19. Milwaukee Brewers (7-10-16)
  20. Colorado Rockies (11-7-12)
  21. San Francisco Giants (29-27-25)
  22. Kansas City Royals (21-21-22)
  23. Miami Marlins (23-26-21)
  24. Pittsburgh Pirates (20-25-23)
  25. New York Mets (22-23-24)
  26. Seattle Mariners (26-22-27)
  27. Chicago White Sox (25-24-28)
  28. Toronto Blue Jays (28-28-26)
  29. Detroit Tigers (27-29-29)
  30. Baltimore Orioles (30-30-30)

SPOTLIGHT TEAM: OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Previous spotlight teams: Minnesota (6/1), Atlanta (6/15), Texas (7/1)
The Oakland Athletics are currently tied for the second American League Wildcard playoff berth with a 53-41 record, and are five games behind the first-place Houston Astros in the AL West Division race.
After three straight last place finishes, the A’s rose to become a 97-win team a year ago. They were bounced out of the AL Wildcard Game by the New York Yankees in a 7-2 defeat in the Bronx.

Bob Melvin has been at the helm in Oakland since the 2011 season.(Keith Allison)
Managed by Bob Melvin, now in his ninth season at the helm (687-640), the A’s are a team without a true weakness. They show up at 4th in my pitching category, 6th on defense, and as the 10th-ranked offensive attack. It all adds up to the 8th-best record in Major League Baseball and their current playoff contending status.
The A’s offensive attack is led by one of the top young stars in the game today, Matt Chapman. The 26-year-old third baseman made his first AL All-Star team this year after finishing 7th in AL MVP voting a year ago during a season in which he won a Gold Glove at the hot corner.
Other key players are 24-year-old center fielder Ramon Laureano, 25-year-old first baseman Matt Olson, 28-year-old shortstop Marcus Semien, and veteran DH Khris Davis.
On the mound, 34-year-old veteran right-hander Mike Fiers tossed his second career no-hitter earlier this season and is having a strong overall year. Righty Chris Bassitt and lefty Brett Anderson have also been solid in a rotation that could get better in September with the return of talented 26-year-old right-hander Frankie Montas. He was lost to an 80-game PED suspension.
Liam Hendricks has taken over the closer role from Blake Treinen and proven lights out with a 1.21 ERA, 2.06 FIP, 1.000 WHIP and 35 hits allowed over 52 innings across 44 games. He has registered a half-dozen saves in the game-end role with a 65/17 K:BB ratio. A trio of veterans in right-handers Joakim Soria and Yusmeiro Petit and southpaw Ryan Buchter have been strong in setup roles.
The A’s are typically little known by many baseball fans. But team president Billy Beane of “Moneyball” fame has helped the organization put together another legitimate playoff contender on the cheap. They will be a difficult out for any opponent in a one-game Wildcard match-up, should they get there again.
Originally published at Phillies Nation as 2019 MLB Power Ranking: July 15

Mickey Moniak beginning to look like a worthy top draft pick

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Moniak was the top overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft

During their recent half-decade plummet to the bottom of the National League standings, the Philadelphia Phillies found themselves picking at a high position in the annual MLB Amateur Draft on a regular basis.

The Phillies had such a horrendous season in 2015 that their 63-99 record proved to be the worst in all of Major League Baseball. That set the club up with the #1 overall pick of the 2016 MLB Draft.
This was going to be far from a slam-dunk selection. Sure, the draft has yielded some true impact players with that first overall pick. Since the turn of the century, that top pick has produced stars in Joe MauerDavid PriceStephen StrasburgBryce HarperGerrit Cole, and  Carlos Correa.
However, there have been as many misses as hits. Players selected #1 overall since the year 2000 also include Bryan Bullington (2002), Delmon Young (2003), Matt Bush (2004), Mark Appel (2013), and Brady Aiken (2014). Some were injury casualties. Some simply never developed as hoped.
Others made an impact, but it would be hard to say that they justified a first overall draft selection: Luke Hochevar (2006) and Tim Beckham (2008) fall into this category.
Even Justin Upton, taken first overall in 2005, has to be considered an overall disappointment when considering he was the top draft pick. Dansby Swanson, the top selection in the 2015 draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks, is just emerging this year as an impact player after being traded to the Atlanta Braves.
In June of 2016, Matt Klentak was overseeing his first draft as the general manager of the Phillies. Johnny Almaraz was the club’s head of amateur scouting at the time. When MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred stepped to the podium to announce the selection, he called the name of Mickey Moniak, an outfielder from La Costa Canyon High School in Carlsbad, California.
Collectively, we believe Mickey was the best player available in the draft,” said Almaraz at that time, per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia. “He’s a true centerfielder with incredible offensive ability and the potential to be a perennial All-Star.”
Per Salisbury, a rival talent evaluator also delivered a glowing appraisal of Moniak: “He’s going to hit and hit for average. He’s a good centerfielder. He can run. The question is how many home runs will he hit? If he ends up getting stronger, he could be a corner bat that’s unbelievable. There’s no negative here. It’s a good pick.
Moniak knew that the pressure would be on him, and seemed ready to accept the responsibility. “I am honored by this and I’m excited to prove the Phillies right,” Moniak said in an interview with the MLB Network after the pick was announced.
After passing a physical exam with the team, Moniak inked a contract that paid him a $6.1 million signing bonus. Financially set, it was time to play baseball.
Almaraz doubled down on his assessment of Moniak’s abilities, per Todd Zolecki of MLB.com: “I think you’ll have a Gold Glove center fielder who will hit in the middle of the lineup and be a leader on the team,” Almaraz said.
As an 18-year-old, Moniak was assigned to the Phillies rookie-level team in the Gulf Coast League. He slashed .284/.340/.409 with 16 extra-base hits, 27 runs scored, and 10 stolen bases in 194 plate appearances across 46 games. It was a solid beginning to his professional career.
Moving up to Low-A Lakewood the following season, however, Moniak struggled mightily. He slashed just .236/.284/.341 in the summer of 2017 and frequently appeared to be over-matched, striking out in more than 20% of his plate appearances.
Still, the organization liked his maturity and believed he was up to another promotion for last season. It didn’t look that way early on, as things started out even more poorly with High-A Clearwater. Over his first 172 plate appearances across 43 games, Moniak slashed just .217/.233/.253, striking out in more than 25% of the time.
Then, something seemed to suddenly click. In his next four straight games, and five of his next six, Moniak produced a multiple-hit effort. He would slash .303/.346/.464 over his final 71 games and 293 plate appearances, with 30 extra-base hits and 41 RBIs. Moniak also cut down his strikeout rate to below the 20% mark over those final two and a half months.
With that performance his confidence grew, and Moniak moved up to Double-A Reading for this 2019 season. He turned just 21-years-old on May 13, and was playing so well that he was named to the Double-A All-Star team.
Unfortunately, a strained hamstring suffered while making a sliding catch in center field on June 30 has put Moniak on the minor league injured list. He will be in Richmond, Virginia for that Double-A All-Star Game on Wednesday night, but his ability to actually participate is questionable.
Moniak was slashing .266/.324/.437 with 32 extra-base hits, 42 runs scored, and nine stolen bases over 314 plate appearances in 75 games. In his last 13 games prior to the injury, he was hitting .318 with a .436 on-base percentage.
While Moniak had become a strikeout victim in 22% of his appearances this year, the now 6’2″, 185-pounder has quite obviously shown the ability to compete at the second-highest level of the minor leagues at more than three years younger than the average player age.
No, Mickey Moniak is still not demonstrating that he will be a difference-making impact player to the levels envisioned by the organization when he was drafted. But neither is he the bust that many were beginning to call him just one year ago.
I think it’s a lot of hard work in the offseason, but it has to do a lot with the past few years,” he said per Jackson Satz of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “The seasons I’ve had, the good, the bad, learning from everything that’s happened to me throughout my professional career so far. Ultimately, that’s going to work for me to become the best player that I can be.
Now, mission one is to recover from the hamstring and get back into action. The Phillies have advanced him in a patient, yet consistent manner. One minor league level at a time. Moniak has continued to develop, gotten bigger and stronger, and it is now finally possible to envision him wearing a Phillies uniform at Citizens Bank Park.
Fans should expect to see him finish the year with Reading, and then move on to Triple-A Lehigh Valley when next season opens. He is likely to spend most of the 2020 season continuing his development. At that point it will be all about performance and production.
It may not yet be time for Phillies fans to get excited about Mickey Moniak. But it is beginning to become possible to see him as a contributor at the big-league level within the next two years. And it remains possible that he could still become the impact player that Almanzar and others believed him to be.
NOTE: Special thanks to Cheryl Purcell for her picture of Moniak at Reading accompanying this piece, and RIP to a truly good boy, Jax: https://jack-jax.com/

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