Phillips started pushing his fastball into the low 90s as a New Jersey high school senior in 2015, leading the Rangers to pay him an above-slot $160,000 to sign in the 16th round. He didn't break out until 2018, when he topped the low Class A South Atlantic League with 11 wins and ranked third in the Minors in K/BB ratio (7.9) and fourth in walk rate (1.1 per nine innings). He continued to pound the strike zone last season, though he ran into trouble with home runs after he got to Double-A in mid-May.
While Phillips can't blow the ball by hitters, he generates a lot of weak ground-ball contact because he creates tail and sink on his fastball and changeup as well as downhill plane with his 6-foot-5 frame. His changeup is his lone plus pitch, though his low-90s heater plays better than its velocity because he commands it so well. His inability to spin a reliable curveball hurt him in Double-A, and he had more success when he turned to a slider later in the year.
Phillips has the best control and command in the system, though Double-A hitters revealed that he has a thin margin for error. He's big and athletic, though he hasn't added much velocity since turning pro. His knack for pitching to a hitter's weakness and competitive makeup help give him one of the highest floors among Texas pitching prospects.
Scouting grades: Fastball: 55 | Curveball: 50 | Changeup: 60 | Control: 60 | Overall: 50
When Phillips' fastball crept into the low 90s during his senior season as a New Jersey high schooler in 2015, his Draft stock rose as well, prompting the Rangers to sign him for an over-slot $160,000 as a 16th-rounder. He wasn't ready for full-season ball until 2017 and flunked his first test there with a 6.39 ERA in seven outings, but he fared well when he returned last year. He led the low Class A South Atlantic League with 11 wins and finished third in the Minors in K/BB ratio (7.9) and fourth in walk rate (1.1 per nine innings).
Phillips misses bats and generates a lot of groundouts thanks to the tail and sink on his fastball and changeup, and the downhill plane he creates with his 6-foot-5 frame also helps. He has made impressive strides with his changeup, which grades as his best pitch, though his low-90s heater plays just as effectively because he commands it so well. He'll show the makings of a solid curveball but it's not as reliable as his other offerings.
While Phillips doesn't have sexy stuff, his ability to locate his pitches so well could make him a mid-rotation starter. He has an affinity for pitching to hitters' weaknesses, and scouts inside and outside the organization love his makeup. There's still some projection remaining in his big, athletic frame, so it's possible he could add more velocity.
Scouting grades: Fastball: 55 | Curveball: 55 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 55 | Overall: 50
Phillips' fastball jumped from the high 80s to the low 90s during his senior season as a New Jersey high schooler in 2015, spurring the Rangers to lure him away from a commitment to State JC of Florida Manatee-Sarasota with a $160,000 bonus in the 16th round. He finally graduated to full-season ball at the start of the 2017 season but got demoted after recording a 6.39 ERA in seven outings. He righted himself in his return to the short-season Northwest League, where he finished second in strikeouts (78 in 73 innings) and WHIP (1.22).
Phillips still is figuring out how to get the most out of his tall, athletic frame and loose, quick arm. He works from 90-94 mph with his fastball, inducing groundouts with its tail and sink along with the downhill plane his size creates. His curveball and changeup are becoming solid pitches but lack consistency at times.
While Phillips has had no problem throwing strikes, his command isn't nearly as advanced as his control, making him fairly hittable in the early stages of his career. Texas knew he would need time to develop and is willing to give it to him because he remains one of the more projectable starting pitching prospects in the system.
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50 | Overall: 45
Heading into his 2015 senior season at Bishop Eustace Prep (Pennsauken Township, N.J.), scouts viewed Phillips as a classic projection arm who would be best off with some development time in college. Once his fastball velocity surged from the upper 80s to the low 90s, however, the Rangers paid him $160,000 in the 16th round to buy him away from his commitment to State JC of Florida Manatee-Sarasota.
Phillips has an athletic 6-foot-5, 200-pound frame and a loose, quick arm that works extremely well. He currently operates at 91-94 mph with downhill plane plus tail and sink on his fastball, and he should continue to add velocity as he gets stronger. Both his slider and changeup are works in progress with the potential to become average or better offerings as he gains experience.
Phillips' athleticism and easy delivery should enable him to throw plenty of strikes. While he's a project who will need time to develop, his ceiling is higher than most of the starters in the Texas system.