Moniak making last-ditch push for roster spot

March 16th, 2023

PHOENIX -- After the Angels traded for right fielder Hunter Renfroe and signed fourth outfielder Brett Phillips to a one-year deal this offseason, it looked like there wasn’t a clear path for  to make the Opening Day roster.
But Moniak has made it a difficult decision for the Angels, as he’s excelled at the plate this spring after making a few adjustments to his swing in the offseason. He’s hit .400 (12-for-30) with a homer, a triple, three doubles and five RBIs in 13 games. He’s also shown improved contact skills, as he’s struck out just four times in 32 plate appearances.
“I think just kind of getting into my legs and using my legs a lot more efficiently,” Moniak said. “Just trying to keep all my weight centered, trying to keep my head still, little things like that. Coming into Spring Training, we opened up my stance a little bit and I feel like I'm seeing the ball a lot better. I'm clearing a path from my hips to work and I'm happy with where I'm at, for sure.”

Moniak, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 Draft, also had a strong spring last year with the Phillies, but broke his right hand after being hit by a pitch late in spring and was out until late May. He was eventually traded to the Angels at the Trade Deadline for Noah Syndergaard and found success with his new club until two more hand injuries marred his season.

He suffered a fractured left middle finger on a bunt attempt in early August that kept him out of action for a month before later ending the season on the injured list with a left hand contusion after being hit by a pitch on a checked swing on Sept. 28.

He said his left hand didn’t fully recover until mid-November, but he then spent time at 1RM Performance in San Diego and also met several times to work with new Angels assistant hitting coach Phil Plantier, who lives just 30 minutes from Moniak during the offseason.

“He's made some swing adjustments, a lot more contact and he’s hit the ball harder,” said manager Phil Nevin. “I’ve never worried about his defense or baserunning. He’s a really high IQ guy. But the offseason adjustments he made are showing up and it’s great to see.”

While Moniak has put up strong numbers this spring, Phillips has struggled, going 2-for-26 with a homer, a triple and 15 strikeouts in 29 plate appearances. Jo Adell, who is also in the outfield mix, has batted .229 (8-for-35) with two homers, three RBIs and 16 strikeouts in 35 at-bats.

Phillips signed a one-year deal worth $1.2 million and remains the frontrunner for the fourth outfielder role because of his defense and experience, but Nevin said earlier this week that it remains a competition.

"We're gonna take the best guys,” Nevin said. “I've said that all along. Contracts, or however they go, we're trying to win. We're taking the best group. So I would say certainly there is competition."

Moniak, though, could be sent to Triple-A Salt Lake along with Adell to get more consistent playing time, as the Angels plan to play their regular outfielders Mike Trout, Taylor Ward and Renfroe plenty. They also could have a few of their infielders see limited time in the outfield, such as Jared Walsh, Luis Rengifo or Brandon Drury.

Moniak understands the roster crunch and said he’s just trying to put his best foot forward no matter what the Angels decide.

“It's a position that I've been in pretty much every year in my career, going into Spring Training in Philly having to earn a spot,” Moniak said. “I know nothing in this game is given. We brought in those guys for a reason. They're great ballplayers. They're gonna help our team win and it's my job to get the best out of myself and just dominate wherever I’m at.”

Detmers takes perfect game into fifth inning
Lefty has shown increased velocity this spring and turned in another dominant showing during the Angels' 3-2 win over the Brewers on Thursday, as he took a perfect game into the fifth inning before giving up a solo homer to Luke Voit. He struck out six and walked none and has a 2.08 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 13 innings in Cactus League play.

“I felt good,” Detmers said. “Everything felt good. Had good results. I was just trying to get a feel for all my pitches so when it comes time for the season, they’re ready. The changeup is something I’ve been trying to throw a little bit more and it felt good.”