Moncrief Making a Pitch to Be a Tribe Outfielder Soon

The Cleveland Indians open the 2014 season with new expectations despite many questions. The Indians’ 25-man roster will look different than the group that won 92 games and lost the American League Wild Card game to the Tampa Bay Rays. While the roster may change and the expectations grow, Cleveland will need answer many questions this spring before opening the season in Oakland on March 31. Today, we look at one of the Indians’ young players who likely won’t make the roster but could impact the Tribe’s season before it ends.

Sometimes the best made plans never come to fruition. In the case of Carlos Moncrief, his second option may result in even a better outcome.

Originally drafted as a pitcher by the Cleveland Indians in the 2008 First Year Player draft, Moncrief has transitioned to becoming an outfielder over the last four seasons. After a breakout season at Double-A Akron in 2013, he enters the 2014 season on the Indians 40-man roster and maybe just a phone call away from the big leagues.

“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.”
Moncrief was signed in 2008 out of Chipola College in Marianna, Fl. After struggling in 2008 and 2009 as a pitcher in both the Gulf Coast League and the Arizona League, he went to the Indians organization and asked to transition to the outfield.

“As a pitcher, I liked it when I could throw 96 and strike people out,” Moncrief said. “[But] my heart has really been in it as a position player and a hitter. It’s been a good transition for me.”

In four seasons as a position player, Moncrief has made vast improvements each season. After spending most of 2010 at Short Season-A Mahoning Valley, Moncrief has climbed a full-season level each year since. As Moncrief has progressed from Low-A Lake County, to High-A Carolina and last year at Double-A Akron his power has grown and his plate awareness has improved.

In 2011 at Lake County, Moncrief struck out 158 times and hit just .233 at the plate. A year later Moncrief cut those strike outs down to 126 with a .249 batting average at Carolina and last season he had a break out season. In 2013, Moncrief hit .284, with 17 home runs, 75 runs batted in, while striking out just 98 times. Moncrief’s Double-A progress was rewarded by being named an Eastern League All-Star in July. His raw power continues to develop over the last three seasons. Last season Moncrief hit several majestic home runs, including one over Akron’s batter’s eye in center field. It’s just the second time a player has ever cleared the batter’s eye.

“He did the same thing last year (in Carolina),” 2013 Akron Aeros manager Edwin Rodriguez said, “He had three or four home runs that were pretty much the same, straight away to center field. [In Carolina] we had a pretty big wall there.”

Moncrief has above average speed, stealing between 15 and 20 bases in each of the last three seasons, and has been an option in both center field and right field. However, the live arm that once had him drafted as a pitcher, now projects him to be a big league right fielder some day. He had 16 outfield assists with the Aeros in 2013.

His breakout season in 2013 resulted with the Indians adding him to the 40-man roster. This spring he’ll enter his first big league training camp with an outside shot to make the Tribe’s roster. With Ryan Raburn and newly signed free agent David Murphy slated to platoon in right field, it’s more likely that Moncrief will open the season at Triple-A Columbus.

While Moncrief’s transition to an outfielder and progression through the minor league system has gone well, the budding outfielder will begin the 2014 season already 25-years old. His prospect clock is running quickly.

This spring will be an opportunity for Moncrief to make an impression to Indians manager Terry Francona and the rest of the big league coaching staff. If Moncrief impresses this spring—and an outfield position opens through injury or poor performance—he may be just two hours and a phone call away at some point this season from a big league debut.

Photo: Lianna Holub/DTTWLN photographer

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