Carlos Moncrief’s “Hose” No Secret Anymore
Ryan Hohman | On 01, Sep 2014
Hose. Cannon. Rifle. Laser. Whatever you want to call it, Columbus Clippers outfielder Carlos Moncrief has it. His International League leading 22 assists have left fans saying “wow” and base-runners walking back to the dugout shaking their heads all season long.
“I never knew I was doing anything spectacular because nobody said anything,” the 25-year-old Moncrief said. “It wasn’t in the newspaper or on the news. I was just in Jackson, Mississippi doing it in someone’s backyard [Laughs]. Nobody knew. But now that people talk about it I try to stay as humble as I can.”
Moncrief’s 22 outfield assists are the most in one season by a Clipper and the most in one season in the International League since Norfolk’s Chris Roberson had 22 in 2008. To put this feat into further perspective, Boston Red Sox outfielder Yoenis Cespedes currently leads the major leagues with 14 outfield assists.
Longtime Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder and two-time Gold Glove winner Raul Mondesi had five seasons in which he had more than 10 assists. Not only did he have a tattoo of a cannon shooting out a baseball on his right arm, but he also nicknamed his right arm “El Canon”. Does Moncrief have a nickname for his arm?
“No, I don’t think so. Do I say anything?” Moncrief laughed. “No, I’ve always had it. I honestly didn’t know my arm was as good as it was. Then I realized not too many people had a real good arm and that it’s something special. I cherish it. I like it.”
Moncrief was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi, where baseball was ingrained in him at a young age. His father, Homer Moncrief, was a star pitcher at Jackson State University and went on to play five seasons of professional baseball with the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox organizations.
“I looked up to my dad,” said Moncrief on his childhood. “That was about it. He was a pitcher for a while. He played for Detroit and the White Sox and got to Double-A. But as far as a favorite player in the big leagues, I just liked baseball.”
Like his father, Moncrief was drafted as a pitcher when the Indians selected him in the 14th round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft out of Chipola College (Marianna, Fla.), one of the premiere JUCO baseball programs in the country. Moncrief only pitched 17 innings that season, but a violent 95 MPH fastball was all scouts needed to see. He also led his team in numerous offensive categories, batting .350 with six home runs, 41 RBIs, and 16 stolen bases.
Moncrief spent his first two professional seasons pitching out of the bullpen in the Gulf Coast and Arizona Rookie League, where he posted a 1-2 record and 7.75 ERA in 28 appearances.
It wasn’t working out for Moncrief as a pitcher and the Indians weren’t about to give up on him. In 2010, they began converting him from pitcher to outfielder, a new position that allowed him to showcase his great arm strength and pursue his passion – hitting.
“I wanted to switch and do something I really loved and that was hit,” said Moncrief.
Moncrief got his first crack as an everyday player in 2010 with the Low-A Mahoning Valley Scrappers, where he led the team with six outfield assists from the right and center field positions, and batted .241 with five home runs and 21 RBIs in 66 games.
In 2011, Moncrief’s offensive production and outfield assists soared as the starting right fielder for the Class-A Lake County Captains. Moncrief hit .233 with 16 home runs and 53 RBIs. He also recorded 20 stolen bases and a league-leading 21 outfield assists. After the season, Moncrief was rated as having the best outfield arm in the Cleveland Indians system.
The following 2012 season, teams in the High-A Carolina League took note of Moncrief’s powerful arm and thought twice before running with the ball in his hand. Carlos tallied just six outfield assists, but impressed the Indians organization with another successful campaign at the plate. In 101 games, he hit .243 with 15 home runs, 53 RBIs, and 17 stolen bases.
Promoted to Double-A Akron to be the team’s everyday right fielder in 2013, Moncrief took advantage of the opportunity and posted career highs in batting average (.284), home runs (17), and RBIs (75). He also swiped 15 bases and once again led his league with 16 outfield assists.
A career year at the plate and first class defense landed him a job as the Columbus Clippers starting right fielder in 2014. In addition to his league-leading 22 outfield assists, Moncrief has had another solid year at the plate. He’s currently batting .272 with 12 home runs, 63 RBIs, and eight stolen bases.
I think it’s safe to say that Moncrief’s transition from pitcher to outfielder has been a successful one.
“I always thought I could hit,” said Moncrief. “There were a lot of things I didn’t know about hitting which I’m learning now and I’ve learned over the years in professional ball. I always thought I could hit, but I had a good arm so I thought I could pitch. I just didn’t know I had to throw everyday as a pitcher and it’s not easy.”
The Clippers open the 2014 International League Playoffs against the Durham Bulls this Wednesday at Huntington Park (7:05pm ET). For the Clippers to win their third Governer’s Cup in five years, they’ll need Moncrief’s defense and bat.
“Staying focused and not even thinking that the season is going to be over,” said Moncrief when asked how he’s preparing for the playoffs. “Everyday is a new day. The season’s going to end. Life keeps going. Keep it going like nothing’s changed and we’ll be good. It looks like from what I see everybody’s still locked in. Nobody’s really talking about going home. If we just stay like that we’ll get it.”
How will the playoffs play out for the Clippers? We don’t know, but if we could script a perfect ending, it would be Moncrief gunning down a runner at the plate for the final out. If that happens, he’ll have lots of help coming up with a nickname for his “hose”, as I like to call it.
“I’ll come up with something,” laughed Moncrief. “I’ll ask my wife what she thinks. She’ll come up with something.”
Photo: Lianna Holub/DTTWLN photographer