By Connor Thomas
I wrote a couple weeks ago about the curious case of the Phillies’ center field position, as Odubel Herrera was sent to the team’s minor league satellite site while Roman Quinn and Adam Haseley were named to the major league roster. My argument then was that, while the opening day decisions had been made, the situation surrounding the center outfield spot was far from settled. Yesterday, that assertion was proven correct as Manager Joe Girardi announced that Haseley has taken a leave of absence from the team for personal reasons, with no timetable for return. First of all, it’s important to wish all the best to Haseley as he steps away from the game. Girardi did not give a specific reason for Haseley’s departure, and the lack of a reason for this move is certainly worrisome, more for the individual than the team. Hopefully whatever Haseley is dealing with works out for the best for him, and he can return to the team soon. The fact of the matter is, however, that the MLB Season waits for no man, regardless of reason.
While Haseley did not have a great start to the 2021 campaign, his absence certainly doesn’t help the team. Still clearly afraid of the negative backlash of promoting Odubel Herrera to the Major League Roster, the Phillies called up former #1 overall pick Mickey Moniak to assume the vacant roster spot. Moniak has been largely disappointing since being selected with the top pick in the 2016 Amateur Draft, seeing only 8 games of MLB action to this point in his career. He batted .214 in 18 plate appearances when he debuted last season, far from what is expected from a #1 pick. It may still be too early to completely write off Moniak, but trading in Haseley’s .264 average through 355 career plate appearances for a guy who hasn’t even had a chance to have a cup of coffee in the majors isn’t exactly an upgrade. Neither Quinn nor Haseley has been good this season, but at least with those two you knew what you were getting. Now, Girardi will be forced to give significant time to Moniak in order to give the kid a fair chance to show whether or not he really belongs at this level of baseball.
How farfetched is it that Moniak could come up and make a difference at the center field position? It’s not as outlandish as some may have you believe. He is not a sure fire failure in the majors, but the issue is that now the Phillies are being forced to give him significant playing time before passing judgement. This change could end up costing another month or two of bad outfield play and around .200 batting, and it could also officially end the chance that Mickey Moniak ever lives up to his #1 pick potential. Ideally, this opportunity would come when Moniak has proven he is ready by solid performance at the lower levels of professional baseball, but now it’s become a sink or swim situation. The Phillies will not allow themselves the Odubel Herrera option, so they have afforded themselves only one other option right now, and it’s not a great one.
Here’s hoping that Moniak makes a miraculous jump and becomes the player the Phils thought he was back in 2016, because they’re sure going to need him to be that guy if they want to stop themselves from falling deeper down the hole of bad center field play.