June 25, 2024

Angels’ Mickey Moniak looks to build on breakthrough season

The outfielder, who hit .280 with 14 homers in 323 plate appearances last year, says it was a matter of simplification

The Angels’ Mickey Moniak gestures to his dugout after hitting an RBI single during the seventh inning against his former team, the Philadelphia Phillies, on Aug. 28, 2023, in Philadelphia. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Mickey Moniak is finally beginning a season without the weight of unmet expectations.

Moniak, a former No. 1 overall draft pick who never found his big-league footing until 2023, comfortably has a job as a regular in the Angels’ lineup.

“It feels different in the sense of finally having the success I had and almost validating what I’ve been doing in the offseason,” Moniak said.

Moniak, 25, had hit just .157 with a .486 OPS over 167 plate appearances in parts of three seasons with Philadelphia and the Angels going into last year, when he hit .280 with 14 home runs and an .802 OPS in 323 plate appearances.

“He’s a professional hitter,” Angels manager Ron Washington said. “He really is. He can handle the bat.”

Washington likes Moniak as his leadoff hitter and right fielder, although he might also get some time at designated hitter or another outfield spot when either Mike Trout or Taylor Ward has the day off.

The remaining questions are whether he can hit lefties and whether he can improve his strikeout-walk ratio.

Moniak drew nine walks and struck out 113 times last season.

“Something I do really well and something that makes me who I am is I am aggressive,” Moniak said. “If pitches are in the zone, I put them in play and hit them hard. The mindset for me is not necessarily trying to walk more. It’s more swinging at the pitches in the zone and being aggressive and if it’s not there, take it. It’s a fine line between not taking away my aggressiveness and being more patient. But that’s something we’re working on this spring.”

As for hitting lefties, Moniak has a career .172 average. Last year, though, when he got his first real shot against lefties, he hit .222.

“It’s just about getting an opportunity to do it,” Moniak said. “And when I get those opportunities, I have to capitalize on them and show people that I can do it.”

Moniak has answered the skeptics on other parts of his game, a process that he said actually began before the 2022 season. That’s when he scrapped a lot of what he’d done with his swing in his first years in the Phillies’ system. He said he “simplified” things, returning to much of what he was doing as far back as high school.

Moniak hit .378 with an OPS of 1.351 with the Phillies in spring training 2022, but he fractured his right hand when he was hit by a pitch just before Opening Day. He returned to play just 18 games with the Phillies before they traded him to the Angels in the Noah Syndergaard deal at the deadline.

Moniak was just a week into his Angels career when he fractured a finger trying to bunt. That cost him most of the rest of the 2022 season.

So for 2023, he believed he simply needed to keep doing what he’d done in 2022, but without the injuries.

“I just had to stick with it,” Moniak said. “The season I had was validating that what I was doing works. But I’m definitely still hungry to get better.”

The Angels’ Mickey Moniak gestures to his dugout after hitting an RBI single during the seventh inning against his former team, the Philadelphia Phillies, on Aug. 28, 2023, in Philadelphia. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

SHUT DOWN

The Angels are tied for the major-league lead with five opposing runners caught stealing this spring. They’ve allowed five stolen bases.

“Every part of defense is a particular emphasis, and that’s a part of defense,” Washington said of stopping opponents on the bases.

They caught Colorado Rockies speedster Zac Veen twice Wednesday.

“He made three attempts at a stolen base and he got blown up twice,” Washington said with a broad smile. “And he can fly. That’s defense.”

One time he was thrown out by Angels 18-year-old catcher Juan Flores.

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