Encinitas (Calif.) La Costa Canyon outfielder Mickey Moniak is of a rare breed.
“I’d say that I do every part of my game and I do it well,” he said. “There’s not really a weak point that I feel is my weakest point. I feel like I do everything pretty well. Hit for average. Hit for power. Can run. Play defense. I’d say it’s all there. There’s room to get better, but I’d say it’s there.”
He’s a five-tool player that can do it all, but there’s a handful of those that come around every year. What really sets Moniak apart is his ability to wow everyone around him and each for something different.
Very few players can elicit a unique reaction from every group that watches him. Fans see the speed and how he hits line drives all over the yard. Scouts spot the great first step in the outfield and the power potential that lies in his bat. Coaches love his attitude and his quiet, but sure demeanor. Parents love that he acts like just another kid that wants to spend time with his high school buddies, but is willing to help make his teammates better players.
Above all, Moniak just wants to win.
“I hate losing more than going 0-for-4,” Moniak said. “I’d rather win a baseball game and go 0-for-4 than go 4-for-4 and lose. I’ll never change that wherever I go or whatever happens.”
La Costa Canyon head coach Justin Machado says Moniak’s willingness to put the team first is unmatched.
“Besides his speed and his ability to hit barrel every time he swings it, he’s probably one of the greatest team players you could ask for,” Machado said.
“With all the hype around him and all the scouts that come to every practice and game, he’s always there team first. He’s able to put that stuff aside. He’s really special.”
It isn’t that Moniak is oblivious to his talent. It’s just he plays without the braggadocio that would be understandable for someone of his talent level. His defining moment might be the ultimate example. Last August in the Area Code Games in Long Beach, Calif., he made an unbelievable catch that made even the hardened scouts and poker-faced college recruiters gasp and exclaim in surprise and delight. When you can get a typically mute group of baseball veterans to even murmur, you’re making an impact.
The catch Moniak made might have led Sportscenter in a bigger setting. With the bases loaded and two outs at the notorious graveyard that was Blair Field before the fences were moved in this season, Fort Worth (Texas) Richland outfielder Jordan Wiley smashed a ball just right of the 400 feet marker in dead center field.
Moniak made an immediate break, hearing the crack of the bat producing 102.5 mph exit velocity. Head down, he sprinted back, looking up just before reaching the warning track. No time to get behind the baseball, he tracked it to the dirt warning that a large wall was soon awaiting. Moniak slowed up a half-step from his full sprint, reached up in front of his face and watched the ball travel over his shoulder and into his mitt for a Willie Mays-style grab a step before he banged off the wall.
While everyone else was in disbelief, Moniak simply produced a sly smile as he jogged in with the ball.
“It’s something that every coach would dream for, especially a kid that’s got that much hype behind him and that much following that comes every game,” Machado said. “A lot of kids can’t handle it. They don’t deal with it very well where he…I don’t know. He’s special. He puts us first, takes a lot of pride in us winning ball games, so he’s great to have.”
Moniak would also be great to have for any Major League organization as he has time and again stood out against even the most elite of his peers. His name will likely be called June 9 in the first round of the MLB Draft and his strong senior campaign thus far should mean he won’t be waiting long to be selected.
“[The draft] is something that could hopefully fulfill a dream,” Moniak said. “My dream is to play professional baseball, win World Series, be the guy that everyone looks up to. The draft is obviously the first step of that. It means a lot, but you can’t really focus on it now. You have a high school season to play and a CIF title to win.”
He has helped carry La Costa Canyon to a 9-5 record against some stiff competition early, including splitting its four games in the recent Boras Classic despite playing the best of the best in Southern California. After falling behind 5-1 in their finale against Mater Dei on the Monarchs home field, the Mavericks stormed back for a 6-5 win behind Moniak. He was 2-for-3 with a walk, three runs, a triple, a home run and two runs driven in.
In 14 games, he has already knocked in 19 runs while batting .449 with 10 extra-base hits. Anything not straight to an outfielder has extra-base potential, but Moniak has been living in the gaps and the lines where his wheels and high school outfield arms have led to seven triples.
Moniak will have a decision to make this summer. Does he sign with the MLB organization that drafts him or does he put his professional career on hold and attend UCLA where he has been committed since his freshman year?
“I got my first letter from UCLA when I was I want to say beginning my freshman year. I’ve always liked UCLA.
“I’ve always liked the school, but I think the big decision maker for me was when I met with Coach [John] Savage on my official visit. He made it feel like a homey environment and made me feel part of the family, so I think he definitely made the decision for me almost after I talked to him.”
UCLA has produced a number of draft picks under Savage, including a No. 1 overall pick in Gerrit Cole. Cole turned down significant money when he was a first round draft pick out of high school and chose to become a Bruin instead.
He teamed with another future top-five pick, Trevor Bauer, to lead UCLA to the College World Series. Could Moniak also be the rare breed to follow in Cole’s first round-to-UCLA shoes?
“The whole decision of whether to go in the draft or go to school is a win-win either way,” Moniak said. “UCLA, I’ve known after my official visit it was like ‘I could see myself here for three or four years.’
“It’s honestly a great place to play baseball. They’ve got a good program over there. If I ended up going to UCLA, I couldn’t be more happy to be there. We’ll see what happens.”