Heading into June’s MLB Draft, many see the collegiate bat of Kyle Lewis as the most major league ready offensive weapon in the draft class. Most feel Nick Senzel and Corey Ray could be the next bats off the board with their success over the past three seasons, both at the NCAA level and in summer leagues. Two high school bats, however, are eerily similar, and could be the two most exciting prospects in the entire draft.
Mickey Moniak and Blake Rutherford both hail from Southern California. They are both considered the top high school bats available on June 9, and both are projected to be top-ten picks, top-15 at the worst. But wait, there’s more.
Both have committed to UCLA. Both have the same frame, standing at 6-foot-2 and roughly 190 pounds. Both are currently centerfielders, and both bat from the left hand side and throw with their right hand. And both are studs.
While their birthdays are both in May (of course they are), the one big difference between them is their age. Despite both being high school seniors, Rutherford recently turned 19, while Moniak just turned 18. It may sound minuscule, but it could be the deciding factor in who gets drafted first.
Moniak comes from a baseball family. His grandfather played for the Boston Red Sox when this fellow named Ted Williams was the hitting coach. His father played ball for much of his life as well. Moniak was destined to be a baseball player, and judging by his skill-set, he is going to be a very good one.
The senior from La Costa Canyon High School has a lot to offer. He is built in the mold of your traditional five-tool player. He lacks the explosive power that many all-around players possess, but at just 18 years old and a very projectable frame, many think it will come along and develop as a professional. While he doesn’t possess clear-the-fences type power, he makes hard contact every time up and rips doubles and triples all over the field.
His best asset may be his speed, simply because it helps him on both sides of the field. It particularly helps him with his range in centerfield. Whereas with many teenagers, there is some uncertainty on where they will wind up as a pro, Moniak projects to have the speed, range, instincts and arm to stick in centerfield, and one day take home a Gold Glove.
His hitting skills may the best in the draft, as his nearly flawless mechanics have him tabbed as the best natural hitter coming out. You throw in that speed, and singles turn into doubles and doubles turn into triples. He’s never had an issue with hitting, batting .304 his freshman year, .429 his sophomore year and .424 his junior year. At one point in his senior season he was batting over .520 with the same amount of singles (22) as extra-base hits (six home runs, four doubles, and 12 triples).
Then there is Blake Rutherford. The 19-year-old out of Chaminade College Prep (California) was all the talk coming into this season. Rutherford was in the national spotlight because of two consecutive successful seasons on USA Baseball’s 18U team, playing with many of last year’s first rounders in 2014 and leading the team in home runs last summer. While he was heralded as the best high school prospect in the nation because of his play on the big stage heading into 2016, he definitely has some company now in Moniak.
Rutherford has much more raw power than Moniak, but again, at 19 years of age he is also a bit more mature physically and mentally. This has been why some feel Moniak has surpassed Rutherford prospect-wise. Rutherford is older, thus expectations have been raised. Whether it be fair or not, what people expect is more.
That’s not to sell Rutherford short by any means as he, too, is a special talent and likely won’t be honoring his commitment to UCLA. His 2015 season (his year-18 season) saw him hit .435 with four home runs and nine stolen bases. He possess five-tool talent, and whereas power is Moniak’s setback, defense may be Rutherford’s.
Rutherford has the speed to play centerfield in high school, but his average arm and range seem to be more suited for a corner outfield position at the next level. He is fast though, with a long, smooth stride that makes him equally as dangerous on the base paths as it does at the plate. There is no reason to think that Rutherford won’t hit as a pro as he has all of the natural ability in the world.
Rutherford has an even wider stance than Moniak, with a slight bend in his knees. It leaves him with very little leg kick, sometimes displaying a toe tap, but not always. He has an incredibly level swing that he doesn’t seem to have any issue repeating. It’s a compact stroke that explodes through the zone, yet remains smooth and controlled at all times. His elbow and bat are up much higher than his counterpart, but by no means is this a flaw.
Watching both Moniak and Rutherford sometimes feels as if you are watching seasoned minor leaguers. Trying to figure out who’s better between the two is like trying to decide between apples and oranges. You can’t go wrong with either as both seemingly have very few flaws and are both coachable and willing to improve. Deciding who will go earlier may simply come down to age, as unfair as that may seem. The younger Moniak may appear more attractive as he may simply have more room to develop.
For more analysis and exciting video footage, head on over to Today’s Knuckleball for the full article by clicking the link below: