Change in Role for Moncrief Has Him Headed Upward in Tribe System
By Laurel Wilder
Baseball is about consistency. Successful players work tirelessly for days on end to perfect their role on the team, to improve their numbers, and to perform flawlessly enough to earn the much sought after promotion to the big leagues. Many players have been working at the same position since their early years of playing. Getting a request, therefore, to move to a new position is enough to throw them for a bit of a loop.
Carlos Moncrief, however, is not a man to get easily flustered.
Moncrief was drafted by the Indians in the 14th round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft as a relief pitcher, despite his work as a starter in high school and his only having thrown 17 innings as a late-inning reliever while at Chipola Junior College in Marianna, Fl. During his two seasons pitching with the Indians organization (he pitched for the Gulf Coast League in 2008 and the Arizona Rookie League in 2009), Moncrief appeared in a total of 28 games, going 1-2 overall with a combined ERA of 7.75. He gave up 39 hits, 22 walks, and allowed one home run while also throwing 43 strike outs.
Although his numbers showed improvement from the 2008 to the 2009 season, the decision was made prior to 2010 to transition Moncrief into an outfielder. Having played the outfield along with pitching in college, Moncrief was no stranger to the expectations and responsibilities of being a position player. While other players may have balked at the request to adapt to a new position yet again, Moncrief welcomed the change.
“My arm got a little sore, I kind of had to tone it down,” Moncrief said of his ending run as a pitcher for the Indians organization. “I really didn’t like pitching.”
Playing the outfield since, the 6’1”, 210 pound, 24-year-old from Jackson, Miss., has shown little to no struggle since his transition. If anything, Moncrief has shown more promise at the plate than throwing to it.
“As a pitcher, I liked it when I could throw 96 and strike people out,” Moncrief said Monday night at the Lake County Captains 11th Annual Hot Stove Dinner. “[But] my heart has really been in it as a position player and a hitter. It’s been a good transition for me.”
The dedication and passion Moncrief has for his role as a position player is visible when looking at his seasons since the transition. Playing for the class High-A Carolina Mudcats last year in 2012, Moncrief hit .249 with 88 hits, while driving in 53 RBIs, and posting an impressive 15 homeruns.
Last year, Cleveland Indians’ right fielder Shin-Soo Choo posted a .283 AVG, with 67 RBIs and 16 homeruns. With Moncrief’s numbers growing closer to those of the Big Leaguer, his value as a top prospect for the majors is understandable. The Indians have signed Nick Swisher to fill the right field-void left due to Choo’s trade to the Cincinnati Reds, but Moncrief’s growing numbers demonstrate his potential to eventually step into that role as well.
Although his stature allows for power hitting to come naturally, Moncrief admitted that the two-year hiatus from hitting required him to put in a little extra effort to rebuild his strength. Furthermore, the last time he had hit prior to 2010 was in college, where he was still using an aluminum bat. The transition caused Moncrief a moment of pause, as he described the hitting experience of now using a wooden bat as, “a bit different.”
But Moncrief is not one to let small matters like a change of bat or a lack of professional hitting experience to affect his confidence.
“I always felt like I was a pretty good hitter. I mean, I had to work at it, no question about it, but I kind of feel like, at the same time, it comes second nature,” Moncrief said.
Moncrief’s positive attitude and unyielding self-confidence are propelling him through the off-season and into 2013.
“I expect to have a good season,” Moncrief said on Monday night. “That’s always my goal.” Quick to make sure he didn’t come across as having too high of expectations, Moncrief added, “I’m not going to go out there with a big head, I’m just going to be confident in what I do.”
That confidence has certainly proved Moncrief well, as he was part of the Indians’ 2013 Winter Development Program, during which top prospects from within the Indians organization are introduced to the city of Cleveland, the Indians’ front office staff, and the general atmosphere of the big league organization.
“We learned a lot about the mental side of baseball,” Moncrief said. “Physical as well – we did a few physical activities. Overall, it was a good experience.”
If his drive and enthusiasm is any indication, the good experiences will only continue for Moncrief as 2013’s Spring Training gets underway and the regular season approaches.
“I’m just going to work every day, and let the results take care of themselves.”