Mickey Moniak making an impact as Angels take series from Red Sox
Before leaving for the ballpark, Angels outfielder Mickey Moniak, who is from Encinitas but lives in Orange County now, grabs coffee and maybe a bagel, spends some time with his girlfriend and sometimes watches the waves at the beach.
Having that downtime to himself before coming to work is a routine he incorporated about a year and half ago, instead of waking up and heading straight to the ballpark.
“You know, do something during the day that is outside of baseball to kind of make things a little more normal,” Moniak said before the Angels beat the Boston Red Sox 4-0 on Tuesday.
When at his job, Moniak is hard to overlook. He’s shown his potential to be more than just the average baseball player.
Moniak hit his fourth home run of the season Tuesday, his third leadoff one of the season. It put him in a three-way tie with Christian Yelich and Mookie Betts for the most leadoff home runs this season. Manager Phil Nevin said Moniak’s performance of late can be sustainable.
“The league always adjusts quickly to guys when they come on the scene like this,” Nevin said. “So we’ll see how that goes. It’s about making adjustments on both sides, but he’s doing everything he’s been asked, and then some.”
Jaime Barría made his first start this season, giving up only two hits, striking out six, and no runs through five innings in the Angels’ 2-1 win over Red Sox.
Moniak is 13 for 31 this season with four home runs, two doubles and a triple. He has an on-base-plus-slugging rate of 1.373. Defensively, he secured his first home run robbery Friday. He almost did it again Monday, flying into the stands beyond the short left-field wall.
“This is all Mickey,” Nevin said. “I know he’s in a good place.”
Moniak prides himself on being a good defender but credited first base coach Damon Mashore for what he’s been able to do in the outfield. A lot of that work involves reviewing film and practicing different catches, working on reactionary stuff, Mashore said. The rest is helping put together a routine that keeps Moniak and the other outfielders feeling confident.
“That’s really the biggest thing,” Mashore said. “You’re gonna have moments where stuff doesn’t go right and it’s being able to correct it without letting it consume you.”
Moniak has been such an addition to this team since getting called back up May 12. Although there were other factors that led to the roster decisions when Jared Walsh returned from the injured list over the weekend, Brett Phillips, who the Angels signed in the offseason as a free agent to be their fourth outfielder, became the odd man out, and was designated for assignment.
Moniak’s success in the outfield and at the plate has made it difficult for Nevin not to keep him in the lineup. Nevin also does not want Moniak to sit for too long, but intends to play him as matchups dictate. Of the 10 games he’s played, Moniak has been in the starting lineup for eight of them. Moniak will get a day off in the Angels’ series finale against the Red Sox on Wednesday.
Moniak has become a regular in the postgame on-field interviews, but his accomplishments have not been just some overnight success story.
“I think that it’s been a lot of years of learning, failing, growing,” Moniak said, “just kind of building off stuff that I do well and working on stuff that I don’t.”
Moniak was traded to the Angels from the Phillies at the deadline last season. The move, and an overall change of scenery, the Angels hoped, would unlock more of Moniak’s potential after his misfortunes in Philadelphia. Being able to play at Angel Stadium, Moniak said, has done so much more for his comfort level. And that improved performance the team hoped for, has followed.
Moniak was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft, but his career never took off the way it was anticipated when he got to the Phillies. He finally felt his best, most prepared and most mentally ready going into what would be his final spring training on the East Coast.
The Angels’ inability to build a playoff contender means Shohei Ohtani is likely on his way out. His teammates are cherishing the daily displays of greatness.
He was projected to make the Phillies’ opening day roster, but he fractured his right hand during the team’s final exhibition game of the spring. By the time he fully recovered, he was sent to Anaheim, where he hoped to regroup his season, but then got hurt two more times.
He persisted, his love for the game, his faith and his support system, his family and his girlfriend, continuing to drive him even after he didn’t start the 2023 season with the Angels’ big league team. And he’s come to appreciate the journey thus far.
“Despite all the misfortunes that I’ve had in my career, as much as they sucked in the moment,” Moniak said, “I’m not the player I am right now, I’m not doing what I’m doing right now without them.”
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