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June 09, 2016

Phils Brass: Moniak is 'Gold Glove center fielder' and 'middle of lineup' hitter

Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said the Phillies used nearly all of the allotted time they had – which really means, what, eternity, since they had the draft's first pick? – before deciding, with confidence, that they would select high school outfielder Mickey Moniak of Carlsbad, Calif. with the top pick in the 2016 Major League Baseball Draft.

Perhaps they were agreeing to a number or at least the paramaters with his agent. In a draft with a lot of uncertainty and no true, slam-dunk No. 1 prospect (think Bryce Harper or Ken Griffey Jr.), money is as important as ever. 

The Phillies have the second largest draft bonus pool this year and it's unlikely Moniak would command the $9.015 million slotted for the No. 1 overall pick. The savings a team can create from getting a player to agree to a deal below slot can translate to getting more talent later in the draft, which is exactly what the Phillies likely felt they did in drafting another Southern California high schooler, right-handed pitcher Kevin Gowdy of Santa Barbara, with the 42nd pick in the second round.

Whatever they're thinking was, the Phillies brain trust, five hours after they selected Moniak, finally emerged from their draft room on Thursday night Friday morning. 

"He was No. 1 on my list," amateur scouting director Johnny Almaraz said of Moniak. " He was the best player in the country. ... I believe one day he will hit anywhere between 15 and 22 home runs (in the big leagues). I think you'll have a Gold Glove centerfielder who will hit in the middle of the lineup and be a leader on the team."

And why Moniak over many of the names we heard more often from draft experts in the last three months, like A.J. Puk, Jason Groome, and Kyle Lewis?

"He’s a very good player," Almaraz said. "He’s somebody in my eyes who can play center field probably in the big leagues right now. His ability to hit the baseball is above everybody else in the country right now and his defensive ability is about a 70 as far as our grades are concerned."

Good news, folks. Klentak, one of the many front office members to travel to Southern California to get their eyes on Moniak, likes the kid, too.

"Very good looking kid," Klentak said. "It’s important to note this is a middle of the field player. The way baseball is today, that was a major factor for us. This is a kid who is athletic. He can really hit. One of the top bats in the country and he’s a centerfielder. That’s a pretty good combination."

Moniak is the Phillies' first No. 1 overall selection since they selected Pat Burrell in 1998. He doesn’t have the power profile of Burrell, but he has a hit tool that many considered the best in the draft class. You can read more about the scouting reports on Moniak leading up to the draft from our earlier story.

Moniak actually learned how to hit from a one of baseball’s greatest Hall of Famers (through his grandfather, a former minor leaguer). And it’s not Mickey Mantle. You can read more on that, and what Moniak had to say after being selected with the top pick, in another of our stories from draft night.

Like Moniak, Gowdy is UCLA commit. The 6-2, 170-pound right-hander had a 1.59 ERA and 93 strikeouts (and just five walks) in 56 2/3 innings in 20 games at Santa Barbara High this year.

"A young right-handed pitcher who has the ability to command the baseball at such a young age," Almaraz said of Gowdy. "Above average fastball and good breaking stuff. I’m a believer you can’t teach somebody how to pitch. He’s got that innate ability to pitch and get hitters out and that’s what we want in this organization, front line pitchers."

Gowdy was ranked as the 24th best prospect in the draft by and reportedly has a strong commitment to the Bruins. That’s probably why he became available to the Phillies with the 42nd pick.

But as the team with the second highest draft bonus pool – and a team that likely won’t need its $9.015 million first pick slot value to get Moniak signed – the Phils should have the financial flexibility to meet Gowdy’s number. It’s difficult to believe they would have drafted them otherwise.

The Phillies wouldn't have spent all of that time leading up to their pick – at 7:12 p.m. on Thursday night – if they didn't believe they could get both Moniak and Gowdy signed. Right?

“I hope so," Klentak said. "I think so. That’s a big factor for us, taking players that we like that we’re pretty confident are going to sign. We obviously can’t do it yet and we haven’t done it yet but as soon as [we can], we’ll do it.”

Since we covered Moniak earlier, here are a few scouting reports on Gowdy from a trio of publications leading up to the draft:

Baseball America:Gowdy has a projectable, young pitcher’s body at 6-foot-2, 170 pounds. He’s been well schooled with considerable polish, combining athleticism and working with Cubs scout Tom Myers as a pitching coach since he was nine. The Cubs don’t pick until the third round, and there’s no shot Gowdy will last that long. An alum of USA Baseball’s 18U team last summer as well as the Area Code Games, Gowdy has had some velocity fluctuations this spring, at times sitting in the upper 80s. At his best, he’s sat 92-93 mph and touched 94-95, and he commands it and makes adjustments with it, showing a high baseball IQ. He calls his breaking ball a curveball, and at times it’s another plus pitch, with east-west action that prompts some to classify it as a slider. His clean arm action and low-maintenance delivery are more plusses for Gowdy, who also shows a feel for using his at least solid-average changeup.”

ESPN: "Gowdy's calling card is his mature feel for an average, low-80s slider, which he's able to throw for strikes almost at will. Scouts project it somewhere between above average and plus and think it'll be an issue for both left- and right-handed hitters, as Gowdy is already able to locate it down and inside to lefties. Though he has experienced some fluctuation in fastball velocity during the past year, Gowdy generally sits in the upper 80s and will climb into the low 90s for a few starts at a time. On paper, that fastball is projectable because of Gowdy's measureable, but the frame is a tad slight and there's a chance he never adds mass. … The out pitch here is the slider and it's going to be good, but the rest of what Gowdy has to offer is much more difficult to pin down. The fastball is only projectable if you think Gowdy's body is and there's no consensus there, nor is there a consensus in projecting a changeup or starter's command. If a single team thinks everything will come together for Gowdy -- or thinks the upside of such an outcome, however remote, is worth the risk -- he's a first-rounder." his combination of projectability and pitchability, Gowdy appeared to be the top high school pitching option in California this Draft season. Some lackluster performances, along with some others breaking out, have made that more of a race, though he is still well regarded. The Santa Barbara native has the chance to have three at least above-average pitches in his arsenal. When he's firing on all cylinders, Gowdy's fastball will sit in the 90-93 mph range, and with his frame, it's easy to dream about increased velocity. His breaking ball can be an out pitch with good bite, one that should develop into a true slider in time. Gowdy has a better feel for a changeup than many high school pitchers, and he has shown advanced command for his age. He typically has a free and easy delivery that he repeats well. If Gowdy's stock falters, signability -- and his commitment to UCLA -- could come into play. But there's still a good chance a team early on will roll the dice on his upside and current feel for pitching.”

The draft gets going again at 1 p.m. on Friday with the start of the third round through the 10th round. On Saturday, the draft concludes with rounds 11 through 40.

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