New Slider Gives Tyler Phillips An Edge
Each November teams must decide if they should add minor leaguers to the 40-man roster or leave them exposed to being poached in the Rule 5 draft.
The Rangers had more work to do than most clubs this year, with as many as 10 players who had a case to be protected. Six of them were.
Among them was 22-year-old righthander Tyler Phillips, who doesn't get outs with flashy velocity or wipeout breaking stuff. He's one of the premier control pitchers in the minors—he walked 1.8 per nine innings in 2019—with two offspeed pitches that help him earn his outs.
The Rangers are short on starting pitchers, both in the majors but especially at the upper levels of the minors. The risk that Phillips would be lost was too big for them to take.
Phillips reached Double-A Frisco in 2019 with mixed success after dominating the high Class A Carolina League. The success he had came late, and he was already looking forward to 2020 as the 2019 season dwindled down.
"I'm still working on a lot of stuff, but it's coming along," said Phillips, a 15th-round pick in 2015 from high school in Pennsauken, N.J. "We're working on a lot of stuff in my lower half, just more consistency in my mechanics, and I think it's helping out a lot."
One of the keys to his finishing push at Frisco was a slider. He threw a curveball, which might have been easier for hitters to pick up, but the slider will give him a chance at more deception.
He throws it down, along with his fastball and changeup, but the slider moves the other direction. Phillips used it for his final six starts, but he saw a big difference.
"Numbers-wise, they said it's going to be pretty good for me," Phillips said. "It will play better with the way I pitch. I'm really excited about it."
Phillips went 7-9, 4.73 in 93.1 innings at Frisco, but he recorded a 2.83 ERA after going to the slider. He struck out 10 over 6.1 innings in his 2019 finale.
— Lefthander Taylor Hearn, who missed most of the season after injuring his elbow during his major league debut in April, is expected to be 100 percent entering spring training. He capped his rehab in October with four pain-free bullpen sessions.
— The Rangers dedicated their new academy in the Dominican Republic on Nov. 15, a ceremony attended by Dominican president Danilo Medina. The 26-acre complex in Boca Chica outside Santo Domingo cost an estimated $12.5 million to build.