8:04PM: “I’m going to play [Moniak] a lot” in center field, Phillies manager Joe Girardi told MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki and other reporters, adding that Herrera could get some corner-outfield duty.
1:28PM: The Phillies have activated outfielder Mickey Moniak from the 10-day IL, the team announced today. The move follows an announcement that left-hander Bailey Falter was optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley following last night’s game against the Mets.
Moniak has yet to make his season debut after suffering a fracture in his right hand in the Phillies’ final game of the spring. The top overall pick in the 2016 amateur draft has struggled to match the expectations placed on a 1-1, logging a relatively pedestrian triple-slash of .255/.303/.406 in parts of six minor league seasons and a meager .128/.241/.192 across 55 plate appearances in the bigs, but he was the front-runner to take over the everyday center field job prior to the injury.
That job, covered thus far by a rotating cast that includes Odubel Herrera, Roman Quinn, Matt Vierling, and Simon Muzziotti, could still be his for the taking, though a recent hot streak from Herrera has pushed his season line (.270/.298/.494) much further into playable territory. Still, even with that recent boost, Phillies center fielders boast a combined wRC+ of only 73 — sixth-worst in the majors — and a combined batting line of only .218/.272/.346.
Even with Herrera proving capable cover in center of late, the injury woes of right fielder-turned-DH Bryce Harper have placed manager Joe Girardi in something of a bind. Due to a tear in his UCL that precludes him from throwing but not swinging a bat, the 2015 and 2021 NL MVP has been relegated to DH duties, forcing both of the Phillies’ defensively limited offseason outfield acquisitions — Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber — to play the field, a major contributing factor to the Phils’ worst-in-the-majors rankings in both outs above average (-20) and runs above average (-16).
Both Castellanos and Schwarber have contributed with the bat in Philadelphia, though neither has set the world on fire. Schwarber, who’s .181/.301/.398 batting line showcases an abysmal batting average offset by strong power and on-base skills, could be a candidate to take an occasional seat should Moniak prove himself capable at the plate. Moniak could also be used a defensive replacement in late-inning situations. Whether he’s deployed in this fashion or given a real chance to dislodge Herrera will likely go a long way toward showing the extent to which Phillies brass still view him as a serious prospect.
Falter, who’s posted a 4.20 ERA in 15 innings across six games (two starts), will likely be given the chance to stretch out as a starter in the minors. While he’s had mixed results in the bigs, the 25-year-old has been lights out in parts of two seasons in Triple-A, logging a 1.32 ERA while striking out 39.6% of the batters he’s faced across 41 innings.