TDG’s Double Play: Philadelphia Phillies
Your senior dynasty analysts enter the second season of the Triple Play! The regular feature breaks down an arm, a bat, and a prospect within each organization for your reading pleasure!
Nick Pivetta, Age: 26, SP
Analysis by: Keaton O. DeRocher
More Like Nick Poopvetta
We all have these dudes, you know the ones. The guys we can’t quit no matter what they do on the field. At one point in the minors or in their first year or so they did a thing that caught your attention ever so briefly and now no matter what you’re always going to back this well, every time, regardless of how many times it’s backfired in your face. For me, Nick Pivetta is not one of those guys. He’s the other kind of guy. The kind of guy that no matter what he does I will always avoid him forever because I just don’t see what others see in his numbers to buy-in. If you listen to Dyansty’s Child you know that Patrick and Shelly are both Pivetta lifers, which adds to my insanity, but you’ve also heard me mention many a time, my feelings for Pivetta: Pivetta is trash.
Take the Trash Out
Even in the minors, there was nothing exceptional about Pivetta’s performance. In his three full seasons in the minors from 2014-2016 Pivetta only managed a 7.4 K/9 and a 3.80 ERA. I suppose what may have caught people’s eye with Pivetta was once he debuted with the Phillies, he actually got better with his strikeouts. In his rookie season of 2017, he eclipsed the strikeout per inning mark for the first time with a 9.47 K/9. however, it came with serious red flags. The amount of contact he gave was not a good sign at all. An HR/FB rate of 18.2, a 1.51 WHIP, and above league average in barrels. All of those factors left him with a 6.02 ERA after his rookie year and both his FIP and xFIP were over 4. In his second full season, Pivetta was able to make some small improvements, mostly in his strikeouts and walks. His K/9 increased to 10.32 and his BB/9 decreased to 2.80. Yet again though, when he wasn’t striking people out, he was just giving up so much hard contact. Even with the increase in strikeouts, there were almost no changes to his quality of contact stats. That was a major red flag to me that he was headed for life in the pen.
Juice Not Worth The Squeeze
If there’s one thing we’ve learned this season with the juiced ball it’s that if you make contact good things will happen just about every time. For pitchers who give up hard contact however, this means a lot of bad things are going to happen. That’s exactly what happened with Pivetta. Everything took a turn for Pivetta in the wrong direction, even the gains he had once made on his strikeouts and walks. More importantly though, his quality of contact against just ballooned. His hard-hit rate increased by 9%, he’s almost giving up double the league average of barrels and his HR/FB increased to a wild 22.4%. If there was any chance of Pivetta building on the strikeout improvements from 2018 it quickly went out the window with the juiced ball. This is just not the environment for him to be a successful pitcher, and if the temptation was ever there, I’d steer clear.
Mickey Moniak, Age: 21, OF
Analysis by: Bob Osgood
Regardless of the sport, the pressure of being selected as the first pick, or as the kids call it these days “Going 1.1,” is through the roof. This century, we’ve seen players like Stephen Strasburg (’09), Bryce Harper (’10), Gerrit Cole (’11) and Carlos Correa (’12) live up to the hype. Conversely, we’ve seen Matt Bush (’04), Luke Hochevar (’06), Mark Appel (’13), and Brady Aiken (’14) head the polar opposite direction.
If you asked which path that Philadelphia outfielder Mickey Moniak was heading towards around June of 2018, it would be the latter group. After a couple of months of rookie ball experience post-draft in 2016, Moniak’s 19-year-old season in 2017 was a disappointment on the field. A slash line of .236/.284/.341, while going 11-for-18 on stolen base attempts, and a wRC+ of 80 is not the start that the usually forgiving Philly fans expected from the first overall pick.
The Phillies chose to be aggressive from there, sending Moniak to High-A ball in Clearwater to start 2018. Not turning 20 until May, he was on the younger end of this minor-league level and really struggled to adjust at first. Through his first 43 games, he had a .217/.233/.253 slash line without a home run, and only 14 RBI. While power was not considered his strong suit, the average lagged as well. Moniak plummeted out of top-100 lists and beyond.
Moniak Battles Back:
How did the former 1.1 fight back after taking the first punch? Well, from May 25th-on last season, Moniak began getting comfortable and over his last 71 games at high-A, he hit .303 with an impressive .810 OPS. The left-hander finished the season with a .294 average (.752 OPS) against lefties, compared to a .259 average (.655 OPS) vs. right-handers.
It’s necessary to highlight these early struggles since Double-A Reading presented similar challenges in 2019. Moniak opened the season with a .195 average in April, striking out in 25 of his 77 at-bats. Entering play on August 22, his season tells a different story. Out of 62 qualified hitters in the Eastern League, Moniak ranks 8th in hits (112), 3rd in doubles (27), 1st in triples (13, leading the category by six), 3rd in RBI (65), 8th in Runs (61), and 5th in SLG% (.450) thanks to his 50 extra-base hits. He’s also gone 15-for-18 on stolen base attempts, a great improvement from the 6-for-11 performance last year. Other improvements include a walk rate increasing from 4.7% to 6.7% this year, a wRC+ up from 95 to 117, and an ISO moving from .113 to .190. Arguably the most impressive stat has been Moniak’s ability to hit under pressure in 2019, sporting a .327 BA in 113 at-bats with runners in scoring position, including a .303 BA (.885 OPS) with RISP and 2 outs.
While we should be thankful that the league is trending towards teenage call-ups, and in some cases breakouts, this has begun to set some unreasonable expectations of where prospects should be within 2-3 years of being drafted. Juan Soto is the exception, not the norm. Most importantly, development is not linear, especially when it comes to high school draftees. On many of those top-100 and beyond lists that were mentioned, Mickey Moniak still hasn’t returned which tells you that you can still buy-in relatively low. If Moniak is deemed ready two years from now, he’ll still be 22 years old, while we simultaneously fawn over 22-year-olds playing in the College World Series. The home runs may never stand out, but the hit tool is moving on up. Going forward, we may not be buying 1.1 talent, but I’m buying in on Mickey Moniak as someone who will battle his way through each level and contribute for the Phillies in a few years.
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