Donnellon: Why the Phillies should draft Mickey Moniak

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Mickey Moniak connects for a single for La Costa Canyon during a March game. Charlie Neuman / San Diego Union-Tribune

ESPN’s Keith Law says it will be gigantic Florida lefthander A.J. Puk. So does CBSSports.com. MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo has Barnegat high school phenom Jason Groome as the best player in the draft, but hints that the Phillies may pluck high school centerfielder Mickey Moniak with the first overall pick when the much-anticipated major league amateur draft begins Thursday night.

Lord, I hope so.

I would hate to see another Mike Trout playing somewhere else in a few years. Not that he is, not yet anyway, but it’s harder to get people to downplay Moniak’s potential at this point than it was when Trout was picked 25th by the Angels in 2009. Right now he does everything but hit mammoth home runs, and words and phrases such as "five tools,’’ "intuitive," "natural’’ and "baseball I.Q.’’ appear literally in every analysis of the kid.

Plus, there’s that name. Imagine what the late Harry Kalas could do with it (``Mic-keee Moniak…’’). More realistically, imagine Scott Frantzke pronouncing it over the next decade of baseball, when – you would anticipate – at least some of those arms the Phillies have been stockpiling make up the core of what at the very least should be a competitive rotation.

The Phillies need bats with big upsides. Even if Maikel Franco becomes the perennial all-star his talent suggests, even if Nick Williams and Jorge Alfaro are the real deal, even if Tommy Joseph becomes a great story.

Hell, both major leagues need bats with big upsides these days. So even if Puk is the next Randy Johnson, even if Groome is the next Clayton Kershaw, a player with Moniak’s potential – or Mercer outfielder Kyle Lewis’ potential – is worth taking a big swing. (Especially if, in doing so, it leaves you more money to make a big grab with your next pick.)

No knock against Puk, and I wish him luck, but the list of guys over 6-6 who have dominated in the majors is a short one. They tend to have control problems – Puk averaged four walks per nine innings for Florida this season. Even Randy Johnson, as great as he became, was pretty much abandoned by the Expos, the team that originally drafted him, shipped off to Seattle four years after signing.

In his first three seasons with Seattle, Johnson was barely over .500 as a pitcher, leading the league in walks all three seasons. Not until he was 29 did he become the dominant force that made him a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Pretty sure the Phillies don’t want to wait that long.

Especially since everything you read about Moniak suggests you won’t have to.