As first-round picks from the 2019 MLB Draft begin to sign and head off to the minor leagues, let’s catch up with the 2016 class as they begin to breakthrough to the MLB level.
The Baltimore Orioles have made it official and signed the first overall pick of the 2019 MLB Draft, Adley Rutschman to a record $8.1-million signing bonus. It was an exciting moment for Orioles fans, who have had precious few things to cheer about this season. With this year’s class beginning to ink their deals and head off to small towns across America to try and make it in professional baseball, let’s turn our attention to the 2016 class, whose members are starting to make their way up to the big leagues.
It’s still fairly early to judge the Class of 2016 as a whole. Most of the high schoolers picked in the first round are still working up to the middle levels of the minor leagues. This will be a critical year for the class, and could decide boom or bust status for them. As a whole, the 2016 crop of potential hitters and pitchers was not viewed as a phenomenal class, and there was not a consensus number-one pick like there was this year with Rutschman.
As usual, there was about an even split between pitchers and hitters taken and another even split between college and high school players. Players picked out of college should be expected to reach the big leagues faster, but that sometimes comes at the cost of lower upside. It’s premature to name the best and worst picks out of this first round, but Nick Senzel of the Cincinnati Reds is leading the way for the top picks. More names from the first round will join him later this year, and there is also a surprise NL MVP contender from the later rounds in Pete Alonso of the New York Mets.
1. Philadelphia Phillies: Mickey Moniak, OF, La Costa Canyon HS (CA)
In a draft short on high-end talent, the Phillies went with a relatively safe pick on high-school outfielder Mickey Moniak with the first overall pick. Moniak was viewed as having a lower floor than other top prospects and the general consensus was that he had more than enough overall athleticism and growing power to make the big leagues. He was a top-20 prospect after his debut season in the minors, but his stock has taken a pretty sizable hit since. Moniak no longer ranks on any publication’s list of the top 100 prospects and is only ninth in his own organization.
The power that Moniak had begun to show in his senior year of high school has not materialized as a pro. Now in his fourth season in the minors, the 21-year-old is just a .258/.301/.378 hitter with 14 home runs and 34 stolen bases in over 300 games. There hasn’t been much development or growth to Moniak’s 6-foot-2, 185-pound frame, and the lack of strength might be holding him back as he attempts to climb the ladder. He has struggled to consistently lift and drive the ball. Moniak does still grade out well as a runner and fielder, which may be his path to the big leagues.
It is definitely still to early to label Moniak a total bust. He has managed to reach Double-A at the age of 21 and has not suffered any real setbacks from an injury standpoint. With just over 200 at-bats with Reading this year, he is hitting .259/.296/.424 with 13 doubles, six triples, three home runs and seven stolen bases. He doesn’t walk much, which is something a player with limited pop needs to work on.
The Phillies drew a short straw picking first in this draft, but their top pick will probably still reach the big leagues and have a decent career as a fringe starter. Moniak won’t blossom into an All-Star overnight (if ever), but he will still have an impact at the MLB level in some capacity.