After Brett Phillips’ disappointing 2016 minor league season at AA Biloxi, he dropped in most prospect rankings from top three to bottom three (of the top ten). But a good season at AAA Colorado Springs and struggles from Brewers’ center fielder Keon Broxton saw Phillips make his major league debut in June and a second appearance in July. He came up for good (at least in 2017) in September and finished a solid first campaign with a very good chance to begin the 2018 season as, at worst, the Brewers’ fourth outfielder.
Maverick won’t be the 2018 Rookie of the Year - he exceeded the 45 days service time cut off last season - but he could be the Milwaukee starting centerfielder in 2018. He could also fill a loose platoon in center with fellow prospect Lewis Brinson, or with Broxton. His good defense and excellent arm allow him to play any of the three outfield positions, and a solid lefty bat with power indicates that he can pinch-hit as well.
Phillips earned a 1.0 WAR for his short 2017 MLB stint, slashing .276/.351/.448 (OPS .799). Brett had four homers in his 98 plate appearances. His hot September/October (.308/.390/.462, OPS .851) earned him 59 plate appearances over 19 game appearances, and he contributed handsomely to the Brewers playoff drive that fell just short.
Projections don’t show Phillips continuing offensive output at that level, but his defensive play will keep him in the show barring a total collapse at the plate. He showed good range and instincts, but really impressed with his throwing arm. He had the hardest measured throw (by Statcast) as a major league outfielder in 2017 when he threw out Pittsburgh’s David Freese trying to score on a potential sacrifice fly on September 14th. His throw charted at 104 MPH, and after the game Phillips wondered how hard he would have to throw to earn an 80 score on the 20-80 scale for his arm grade. Sometimes it pays to ask - the following week MLBPipeline upgraded his arm to that coveted 80 mark. Maverick also had the second highest mark in 2017, at 102.7 on July 17th (also against Pittsburgh). In his brief time in the majors last year Phillips notched 4 outfield assists.
Brett’s season at Colorado Springs was very good as well. He went for a .305/.377/.567 line, OPSing .944. He had 19 homers at AAA, giving him a solid 23 total for the year. A high BABIP at both levels contributed to those lofty numbers (.412 at the Springs and .408 for Milwaukee), so perhaps we won’t see a repeat of the higher than usual batting averages. But Phillips’ defense and consistent .350+ OBP level throughout his minor league career bode well for at least a solid major league career. I expect Phillips to totally drop off of the top ten Brewers’ prospect list after the 2018 season because he will be a bona fide major leaguer, and will personally rate him considerably higher going into this season.
Maverick might not climb much in our community rankings this season, but that is more a reflection of the depth of talent in the Milwaukee minor league system than a condemnation of Phillips’ ability. It’s nice to write a good report card!
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Statcast