As the Phillies prepare for Opening Day on Friday the battle for the starting center fielder job is still up for grabs. You have Matt Vierling, and former #1 overall pick Mickey Moniak. The incumbent, Odubel Herrera, is injured and the door is wide open for one of these younger players to earn the job and hopefully keep the job. But while the Phillies will take it down to the wire, it seems clear to me that Mickey Moniak has won the job.

As of Monday morning, Moniak is hitting .310 with 6 home runs in spring training. He had 1 home run all of last season. Matt Vierling on the other hand is hitting .219. Now its spring training, so how much stock can you truly put into practice games? But Moniak has looked much better at the plate. Less “deer in the headlights” and more filled out. His first home run Sunday was a really great at bat where he fought off some pitches and eventually hit a moon shot off of another former #1 overall pick Casey Mize.

Vierling will turn 26 in September. Moniak will turn 24 in May but the difference with Phillies fans is theyve been hearing about Moniak for over 6 years. Most just found out who Matt Vierling was during last season. What also helps Vierling’s case was his strong play last season. It was a small sample size but Vierling hit .324, while Moniak struggled in what was primarily a bench bat.

But the fear that I have is the Phillies will give Vierling the job. Starting him off and giving Moniak pinch hit appearances with the occasional start. That does NO ONE any good. Mickey Moniak needs to be getting every day at bats. If the Phillies cant offer him that, then the Iron Pigs can. Because what is likely if Moniak is parked on the bench is he struggles in the role and is back with the Iron Pigs by May.

I have no idea if Mickey Moniak will ever amount to the hype that came with being the #1 pick. But I want to see. I want to give him the opportunity to sink or swim. I miss the days of bringing up a guy and playing him against righties AND lefties. I miss the days where kid gloves were a giveaway, not something managers put on prospects in their attempt to coddle them. And unfortunately that seems to be the Phillies M.O. Coddling prospects, and playing them out of their natural positions.

There is no doubt that Moniak needs to work on his game. His walk rate is atrocious. But the book is still out on him. Did he take a little longer than most to reach the majors? Yes. But keep in mind he is still 23, soon to be 24. He was drafted out of high school, and if he had gone to college he would have been drafted in 2019, or possibly 2020. The fact that we have been hearing his name since 2016 has sullied him with a lot of Phillies fans, and I understand it. But Chase Utley and Ryan Howard were two players who made their debuts at 24. Sometimes players take a little more time than most. Not every player is Juan Soto.

But after this season, we need to know. And the Phillies need to give him that opportunity to figure it out, or show that hes nothing more than a bench bat. The jury is still out, but there needs to be a verdict by the end of the season and in order to get that Moniak needs every day at-bats.