Tyler Phillips Rides Pinpoint Control To Breakout
The Rangers started 2017 first-round outfielder Bubba Thompson at extended spring training this year after he spent last season in the Rookie-level Arizona League.
The Mobile, Ala., high school product joined low Class A Hickory in May, a month shy of his 20th birthday. Thompson did not disappoint in the South Atlantic League.
He hit .289/.344/.446 with eight home runs in 84 games and ranked among the league leaders with 32 stolen bases. The Rangers can see a day when Thompson is a 30-homer, 30-steal star, even though fellow top prospects Leody Taveras and Julio Pablo Martinez are also center fielders.
It's not true that 20-year-old righthander Tyler Phillips wasn't on the Rangers' radar. It's just that he wasn't one of their biggest prospect blips.
That has changed.
A few things stand out about Phillips. He's 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, he has pinpoint control, and he always has been among the youngest players in his league. Phillips was 17 when he signed as a 16th-round pick in 2015 out of high school in Pennsauken, N.J., a Philadelphia suburb.
Phillips started to blossom last season after returning to short-season Spokane following a bumpy Hickory debut. This season has been by far his best. He went 12-5, 2.64 in 22 starts at Hickory plus one at high Class A Down East. He issued just 16 walks in 133 innings with a fastball that sits 92-94 mph and a plus changeup and breaking ball.
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KEEP AN EYE ON
The Rangers have never been shy about taking a young reliever and jumping him to the big leagues.
Righthander DeMarcus Evans, a 25th-round pick in 2015 from Petal (Miss.) High, could be a candidate for that treatment in the next few seasons. At 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, he is imposing on the mound and has power stuff to match his physique. The 21-year-old struck out 103 batters in 56 innings at Hickory while allowing just 28 hits.
"He is a high spin-rate guy who is 94-98 (mph) with his fastball," assistant general manger Jayce Tingler said. "He gets huge extension, so his fastball plays up even more, and there's some hop in his fastball. He's doing it right now with two pitches—a high-spin fastball and an overhand breaking ball. In a way it's similar to when Kela is going well."