Gauged as a consensus top-five prospect in Milwaukee’s system after two consecutive years of at least 15 HR, 17 SB, .300 AVG and .900 OPS between 2014 and 2015, Phillips’ stock has slipped slightly after a 2016 campaign that encompassed a lackluster .229/.332/.397 slash and career-high 30.9% strikeout rate in his first full year at the Double-A level. The 22-year-old former sixth-round pick has appeared in two of four possible games in Arizona, and while a 1-for-4 line with a triple and one stolen base in that span isn’t flashy, he leads Salt River in walks (4) and has struck out just twice in nine plate appearances.
Phillips’ build is on the shorter end of the spectrum at 6’0”, though he has a strong lower half and surprisingly natural athletic attributes. He stole just 12 bases in 19 attempts this season in the Southern League (63% success rate), but he shows good burst out of the box and underway speed that borders as plus for a left-handed bat, clocking a 4.13 home-to-first time on Opening Night. Combined with his solid defensive reads and an arm that looks to be above-average in limited looks, that speed helps him reach balls in the corner quickly and cover an above-average amount of real estate in right field.
The swing has not looked particularly impressive in limited looks thus far, appearing a bit too mechanical in the upper body and failing to time his leg kick effectively, as he routinely finds himself out front on off-speed stuff, which elicits more defensive hacks and lunges than you’d like to see. There is also a tendency to drop the hands slightly in his load, often causing the swing path to lengthen. Having said all that, he has shown restraint against chasing pitches in the dirt in early looks, which validates the fact that he has actually posted above-average walk rates in each of his first two seasons with Milwaukee.
Beyond the traits he has displayed in-game, Phillips has great makeup and observable passion for his craft, which bodes well for his ability to make adjustments and cope with failures. Projection-wise, I think he ultimately hits for average power (12-16 HR) with a high volume of doubles in a best-case scenario. The swing still requires smoothing out, though, and his pull-happy tendencies have already elicited infield shifts in the fall league, which could limit his ability to hit for a high average. I think there is 15-19 SB annually in his future given his speed, which should also help him man a reliable if not above-average right field. Indeed, a return to Double-A to start 2017 may be in his future, but a 15 HR/15 SB upside with solid defensive attributes will make him a valued asset at the next level.