Moncrief looking to hone standout tools, fulfill dream
Aeros outfielder can take over games with his arm and with his bat
Like most 20-somethings, Akron Aeros outfielder Carlos Moncrief enjoys playing video games, especially MLB The Show. He does not create himself in the game, though; instead he thinks about what could be.
"Every time I look at the Indians' lineup," Moncrief said. "I just hope that I'm in there one year, and I'll play with the Indians all the time when I get in the lineup."
The 24-year-old is not in Cleveland yet, though he is getting close. Moncrief is in Double-A for the first time this season as an outfielder five years after being drafted as a pitcher. Injuries ended his pitching career, but Moncrief has successfully made the transition to the outfield.
Moncrief does not bother Akron's pitchers with his own personal advice, preferring to take over games with his all-around ability in the field and at the plate.
"If I can, I will," Moncrief said of taking over a game. "When I have a bad game and we lose that game... even though it's probably a lot of things that happened in the game, I always feel like it's because I didn't contribute."
A big part of Moncrief's dominance is his throwing arm in right field. Like one would expect out of a former pitcher, Moncrief guns down runners on the basepaths and prays that opponents run.
"It's one of my favorite things to do," Moncrief said. "Whenever I get the opportunity, I have to take advantage of it... so it gives us a better chance to win the game because they won't advance to the next base."
Moncrief needs to calm down from time to time, though, as sometimes he tries to do too much. He can take over a single game, but in order to keep moving up the ladder, he needs to do it day-in and day-out.
"I think he needs to step up his game to be more consistent," Aeros manager Edwin Rodriguez said. "We all know... he can hit for power, he can steal bases, he can throw guys out, he's a good outfielder, but can he do that on a consistent basis?"
In addition to his arm, Moncrief also offers impressive plus power. He has hit two home runs over the 60-foot batter's eye that stands 400 feet from home plate in Canal Park's center field -- a breathtaking feat in person -- though it is not something Moncrief can replicate on demand.
"What's weird is a lot of times in BP I don't hit balls off the center field wall," Moncrief said. "But when I do it in games, I can feel that I hit the ball well and it goes up."
That power up the middle is a key for Moncrief as he looks to establish himself as a major league option down the road.
"For him, it's to be able to drive the ball to all fields," Rodriguez said. "If he gets too pull-conscious, that's when he gets in trouble... He has the power to hit the ball out to any field, so he has to use that to his advantage."
Moncrief is a bit of a free-swinger -- a byproduct of not having as much experience as a normal position player due to starting his career as a pitcher -- so that is something he needs to adjust to this season in Akron.
"It's not just fastballs in fastball counts," Moncrief said of the biggest adjustment he has noticed in Double-A pitching. "They throw a lot of changeups, off-speed in fastball counts, and being more patient is my biggest adjustment at the plate and waiting on my pitch. Instead of thinking about the count, thinking more about pitch-to-pitch, get a good pitch to hit."
That is not something that is always easy to remember, though.
"I have forgotten about it a couple of times," Moncrief said. "And the results show it at the end of the bat... I know that I have the ability to hit way better than I'm hitting. Sometimes I hit balls and I know that I didn't take the swing that I want to take on it... Maybe they throw a pitch middle-away and I roll it over to the second baseman. I know that happens, but at the same time, I can still feel when I know that there's something not right."
Though Moncrief is not a finished product yet, his manager sees progress being made.
"I think he's developing at the same pace that he did develop last year," Rodriguez said. "The first half of the season he was okay, but you can see him getting better and making adjustments. Right now he hasn't been consistent offensively, but he's getting there. He's showing you some flashes of what he can do. I'm pretty positive that eventually it will click and it will stay there...
"I think that it's more mental than physical because we already know what he can do. He has to come in and prove himself every day, that he can do that on an everyday basis."
Rodriguez also observed that Moncrief gains weight in a hurry and that keeping his weight down has been a struggle for the outfielder due to his big frame. In the big picture, though, Moncrief feels that the mental game is more important.
"The body has something to do with it, but it's more of a mental state of mind," Moncrief said. "In my Low-A season, my first full season, I was saying I was tired, I'm tired, and my results would show after the game. So now, when I feel tired or whatever, I just don't think about it... like [Player Development System Special Assistant] Travis Fryman said, it's just as easy to do it the right way, as it is to do it the wrong way, so that's my approach."
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He's an outfielder with marginal power, a low batting average, and he isn't a threat on the basepaths. I really don't see this kid as a future major leaguer. Even his manager's comments are very cautious.