August 15, 2017
LAKEWOOD, N.J. – As the northern most team in the South Atlantic League, the Lakewood (N.J.) BlueClaws don’t necessarily have any easy road trips. Some take them to North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.
The Phillies Low-A affiliate played the first of 13 games in 13 days on Tuesday night, a span that ends with trips to Hagerstown, Maryland (a bus trip of just under four hours) and Kannapolis, N.C. (a nine-hour trek).
No one is going to complain about the travel when your job is in baseball, but it’s still a very real thing you have to deal with as a player or coach, the effect it has on your ability to get regular, restful sleep, good, healthy meals, and the right energy level and focus necessary to play professional baseball nightly, especially when it’s your first full pro season to boot.
So it makes perfect sense that the Phillies and BlueClaws have formulated a plan where both of their most recent first-round picks will share the same position in Lakewood in the season’s final three weeks.
Adam Haseley, this year’s 8th overall pick who arrived in the home clubhouse at FirstEnergy Park on Tuesday after being promoted from short-season Williamsport, will get regular reps both in center field and at designated hitter. Ditto for Mickey Moniak, the first overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft.
“Right now the plan is one of them will DH a couple of days in a row and the other will play center field,” said Lakewood manager Marty Malloy, who had Moniak slotted in center and Haseley as his DH on Tuesday night against Kannapolis. “And the day one of them (is the DH), he’ll take fly balls during (batting practice) in left field and in right field, on the corners, just to help their future.”
Again, this makes a lot of sense, and not just because it gives a 19-year-old who’s playing his first full season (Moniak) and a kid who began playing in college games back in February (Haseley) a chance to get off their legs a few times a week. And it makes sense because, as young prospects, there’s certainly nothing wrong with diversifying your portfolio as a player.
Most center fielders can easily jump into a corner spot. But it’s important to get the occasional reps. Malloy doesn’t have plans to start either on the corners in the final 20 games on Lakewood’s schedule – he said that would come from the Phillies player development staff – but he thinks hard shagging during batting practice will benefit both Moniak and Haseley.
“Look at guys like (Aaron) Altherr, (Cameron) Perkins, look at Nick Williams, all the different guys that have made it to Philly this year,” Malloy said. “They may have started as center fielders but they’re playing a corner, but they’re at the ultimate goal, the big leagues. Whatever it takes to get these guys there, that’s what we’re going to do. It’s not knock on Mickey – he’s done everything we’ve asked of them.
"They’re both going to play center field, they’re both going to get their (at-bats). Mickey has played in 107 games (and) 107 games is a lot, he turned 19 during the season. We’re going to regulate some of these guys and their days off the rest of the way.”
I feel fortunate to be able to move up here again and get to play with these guys... I’m just trying to continue to work on what I’ve been working on.
As with Rhys Hoskins playing left field at the major league level for the next three or four weeks (Altherr isn’t expected to come off the disabled list until some time in September), the center field time share in Lakewood is a temporary solution to having the Haseley and Moniak on the same team at the same time. Just as the Phils front office will likely make a more permanent decision the future of first base (packaging Tommy Joseph in a trade?) this winter, they don’t have to decide where Moniak and Haseley will start 2018 until late March.
Even if both start ’18 at Lakewood, which seems sensible for Moniak, who hasn’t quite found a consistent rhythm on offense, the 21-year-old Haseley (two years older than Moniak) could be quickly pushed to Class A Clearwater early into the spring with success. Haseley, who hit Haseley has hit .295 with a .374 OBP and .416 slugging percentage in 40 games at Williamsport and in the Gulf Coast League since the draft, had an RBI single and a walk in his first game in the South Atlantic League on Tuesday night.
“I feel fortunate to be able to move up here again and get to play with these guys, have to immerse myself as much as I can in the next few weeks,” Haseley said. “I’m just trying to continue to work on what I’ve been working on.”
Haseley is scheduled to make his center field debut with Lakewood on Thursday night. On Tuesday, Moniak handled the assignment with ease, showing his arm strength off early in the game with a perfect line-drive throw from deep left-center into third base and then his range late in the game, sprinting to his right and sliding through a teeming rain to track down a fly ball.
It might also benefit both players to be around each other, as fellow top-10 first-round picks for a franchise desperate for impact talent, and soon.
“I just want him to enjoy it, come play the game,” Malloy said of Haseley. “We’ll have a lot of time with him in the future, so I just want him to go out there and have fun, play the game and finish strong. … (Moniak) has handled it with open arms. Yesterday Mickey and eight others players were at a charity golf event and they’re signing autographs at a hole, doing stuff for the community.
“It hasn’t been easy on him. It hasn’t been easy. Anytime someone comes to the ballpark, they know who he is. I mean, who are they looking at? That’s the first person they’re looking at on the field, because of all the hype, all of the black-and-white print. He’s had his ups and downs, but he hasn’t shown it. He’s still coming to play.”
Haseley isn’t thinking about the pressures or expectations or even where he’ll be when 2018 arrives just yet. He’s still enjoying the moment toward the end of a long and busy six months.
“It’s just been a whole lot of new, a lot of new stuff,” Haseley said. “Which is OK, it’s good to get out and do something new. Grow, be uncomfortable. But it’s gone pretty fast.”
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