This was supposed to be Mickey Moniak’s year.
Well, not at first.
After struggling in his short debut season in 2020, and failing to find footing in 2021, expectations for the former first-overall pick were virtually nonexistent when the Philadelphia Phillies reported for spring training in March.
But that’s what made his transformation so thrilling and heartwarming. Moniak showed up to spring training as an afterthought, the one outfielder then-manager Joe Girardi essentially ruled out, even though the centerfield options were already pretty sparse.
Then he hit .378/.378/.973 with a 1.286 OPS and five home runs over 14 spring training games, not only putting himself in the conversation, but earning the starting centerfielder job on the Opening Day roster. It was a true Cinderella story.
Until an errant pitch fractured his wrist on the final day of spring play. Moniak’s first Opening Day would have to wait.
He stayed with the team, though. Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos promised to have his back. That leadership and focus on togetherness were one of the first signs that this Phillies team could finally break the decade-long streak of malaise and mediocrity.
The Phillies struggled to find consistency without Moniak for almost two months, but when he finally returned at the end of May, the team was finally finding their groove, and he couldn’t find his. Over nine games and 25 at-bats between May 30 and June 13, he managed only four hits, none for extra bases. He scored two runs, drove in another, drew three walks, and struck out 11 times.
Wanting to continue building on the momentum of 10 wins in their last 11 games, the Phillies made a tough decision on Tuesday, optioning Moniak to Triple-A.
Phillies option struggling Mickey Moniak to Triple-A, add Yairo Muñoz to big-league roster
Muñoz has big-league experience. He debuted with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2018, and played 196 games with them between his first and second season. He also made a few appearances for the Red Sox in 2020-21, totaling 17 games. A lifetime .274/.327/.39 hitter, he became Boston’s organizational record-holder when he had a 35-game hitting streak with their Triple-A team last year.
It’s poignantly fitting that a former Red Sox player is the corresponding move for Moniak’s demotion. His grandfather Bill was a Red Sox minor leaguer who never made it to the show.
Maybe Moniak missed his moment. I really hope not. Watching fans warm to him this spring, to champion him and send kindness his way when he got hurt, was one of the best parts of covering the first months of the 2022 Phillies.
May this be just another setback on the way to his comeback.