Offseason Spotlight: Carlos Moncrief
|Carlos Moncrief (Photo: IPI)|
There were several players in the Indians’ system that were non-established prospects when the 2011 season started but by the end of the season had put themselves on the map. One of those players was outfielder Carlos Moncrief.
Coming into last season Moncrief was a low level prospect that had spent his first two seasons in the Cleveland Indians organization trying to make it as a pitcher. After a switch to the outfield in 2010 that had a lot of ups and downs, he came into the 2011 season with very low expectations as a prospect.
Moncrief, 23, went to Low-A Lake County last season and had a very good season as he hit .233 with 16 HR, 53 RBI, 20 stolen bases, and .768 OPS. He also racked almost 50 extra base hits (49), 76 walks and had 158 strikeouts.
People will look at the low batting average and immediately disregard Moncrief as a prospect, but when you consider how raw he is and what he showed with the power, patience, and the running ability last season there is hope that the bat-to-ball will come as he gets more comfortable at the plate and gains more experiences as a hitter. In addition to the skills offensively he is also a good defender with a cannon for an arm.
“I feel pretty good about my year,” Moncrief said in a recent interview for the IPI. “I feel like I settled in as a position player. At the beginning of the year I was still learning some different things like learning how to [properly] load when I am hitting. I know I had some ups and downs all season, but I feel pretty good about what I learned [last] season and will be able to go into next season with a better mental approach.”
There is a lot more to hitting than just see ball and hit ball. A lot of it is the approach a player takes into every at bat and the mental toughness that is required to handle the game on a daily basis.
“I think my mental approach improved with being able to play every day,” Moncrief noted. “Just coming out and having fun and not thinking about how tired I am or that I don’t want to play. You have to want to come out every day, want to get better, and want to have fun playing this game.”
Moncrief was a stat stuffer last season at Lake County scoring runs, driving in runs, piling up extra base hits, drawing walks, stealing bases, and also striking out a ton. He knows the strikeouts are a big concern and it is a major area of focus for him this coming season. He tends to be over aggressive at the plate, so getting him to relax more will help.
“I just go out and play and at the end of the season you go look at the stats and you are like ‘whoah, I did not realize I did all that’,” Moncrief said. “I know I strike out a lot too, so I guess I really do a little bit of everything (laughs). A lot of times before I even get two strikes I get too tense and want to hit the ball too hard. I swing so hard and don’t sit back and recognize the pitch before I take my swing, so that is what I need to work on.”
Lake County hitting coach Jim Rickon agrees.
“For a guy who has not hit in professional baseball very long, is a converted pitcher, and it [was] his first year in full season ball, all-in-all he got better and improved his approach," Rickon said. "For him I think it is just his approach, especially with two stikes, and putting together at bats where he is not just swinging at everything he sees. He is getting a lot better pitches to hit, and when he puts those balls in play he does well. The main thing for him was just accumulating at bats at this level so he could learn how to put together that kind of approach.”
While Moncrief’s future as a hitter may be in question, there is no denying his ability as a defender. He is one of the best defensive outfielders in the entire Indians’ system where he covers a lot of ground at either corner outfield position, can handle center field, and has an arm that used to crank it up to 97 MPH when he was a pitcher. He still needs work on coming in on balls and his pre-pitch setup, but there is no doubt that his defense is ahead of his offense at this point and is his best attribute.
“I know you can’t come out and be a great hitter every day,” Moncrief said. “You can have your stretches when you are on a good streak. But I think my defense and arm are my best qualities because you can control your defense every single day and what you do out there.”
Moncrief is another example of how talent can often come from the most obscure places. He is from a small town in Mississippi and was drafted out of high school in the 20th round of the 2007 Draft by the Phillies. He did not sign and with limited options for college he ended up going to Chipola Junior College in Florida, which is one of the best junior college programs in the nation.
Considering Chipola College is in Florida and Moncrief is from Mississippi, he was surprised when they came calling with an offer to go to school there.
“It is hard to get seen in Mississippi, I won’t lie,” Moncrief said. “I don’t know if Chipola heard about me or what, but they didn’t come out and watch me play. They called me one day and told me to look them up on the Internet and they said they were the number one junior college in the nation. My dad and I went down there for a visit and I went on the field and I did some hitting in my jeans, t-shirt and tennis shoes, they liked me, and I ended up going to Chipola.”
Moncrief spent one season at Chipola before the Indians selected him in the 14th round of the 2008 Draft and signed him. Since then he has had his ups and downs as a prospect, but after his very good 2011 season he has a lot of people excited about what he does in 2012 for an encore.
“I wanted to get better [last season],” Moncrief said. “Not necessarily to show people I could play a position, but that I could last a long season and make progress. That is the main goal when you are playing minor league baseball and that is what I am trying to do.”
Follow Tony and the Indians Prospect Insider on Twitter @TonyIPI. Also, his latest book the 2011 Cleveland Indians Top 100 Prospects & More is available for purchase for $20.95 to customers in the US (shipping and handling extra).
Follow Tony and the Indians Baseball Insider on Twitter @TonyIBI. Also, his new book the 2014 Cleveland Indians Baseball Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.