When spring training was getting started the Seattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds made a big trade that sent Seattle Eugenio Suárez and Jesse Winker. The Reds received four players in return – three were known the day of the trade and one player was named two weeks later. That player turned out to be Connor Phillips.
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When the season began, the then 20-year-old Phillips was assigned to Cincinnati’s High-A affiliate in Dayton. Things went well in his first start as he tossed 5.0 shutout innings, but he struggled the next two times out before going on a big run over the next five weeks. From April 29th through June 3rd he made six starts and allowed six earned runs with 11 walks and 51 strikeouts in 35.0 innings (1.54 ERA). He was solid but unspectacular in the next three starts, but those three starts would be the final ones he made with Dayton before being promoted to Double-A Chattanooga.
The transition to Double-A didn’t go as smoothly as the now 21-year-old would have liked it to. In his first three starts he allowed nine runs in 11.2 innings and walked 11 batters. He rebounded after two weeks off with 4.0 shutout innings against Rocket City on July 26th, but struggled the next three times out as he managed just 7.0 total innings and allowed 15 hits, nine earned runs, and seven walks.
With a full week between that final start of that stretch and his start on August 20th, Phillips turned things around a little bit. Over the final month of the year he made five starts and allowed seven runs in 23.0 innings without giving up a home run, striking out 32 batters, and walking 13.
For all 2022 Season Reviews and Scouting Reports – click here (these will come out during the week throughout the offseason).
Connor Phillips Scouting Report
Position: Right-handed pitcher | B/T: R/R
Height: 6′ 2″ | Weight: 190 lbs | Acquired: 2nd Round, 2020 (Mariners), Trade (March 2022)
Born: May 4, 2001
Fastball | A plus offering that works in the mid-90’s and touches 99.
Slider | A plus offering that works in the low-to-mid 80’s good, late bite.
Change Up | A below-average offering that works in the upper 80’s.
There’s plenty of upside for Connor Phillips. The right-handed starter has two plus offerings to his name and he’s shown that he knows how to use it – striking out 150 batters in 109.2 innings this past season between High-A and Double-A. The 21-year-old was young for the levels he pitched at and was just one of four pitchers in the Southern League to be under 22 and throw at least 35 or more innings.
While there are two plus pitches and a whole bunch of strikeouts, there are some areas where Connor Phillips has to improve. Consistency with the finding the strikezone is probably the biggest area where he must improve. At times he can throw the ball in the general area he wants, but he will battle with that from game to game. He walked 66 batters in 109.2 innings this season, and 34 in 45.2 innings at the Double-A level where his stuff didn’t fool quite as many hitters as it did in High-A. More advanced hitters were able to lay off of his stuff outside of the zone and Phillips will need to get better/more consistent if he’s going to project as a starter in the long run. His change up also lags behind his other two pitches and could use further improvements. It’s a bit firm at this stage of development.
If the control improvements don’t happen in the next few seasons, with two plus pitches it should be no problem for Connor Phillips to transition to a bullpen role where he would profile as a back-end of the bullpen caliber guy. That’s not something the team will explore any time soon as they will give him the opportunity to remain a starter, but everything is there for him to succeed in that kind of role if it’s needed.
Interesting Stat on Connor Phillips
Cleanup hitters hit just .178/.315/.289 against Phillips during the 2022 season. Hitters in the 6th spot in the lineup hit just .125/.255/.150 against him during the year. Hitters in the 9th spot in the lineup had the highest average against Phillips of any spot, hitting .297 against him.
His stuff looks “Major League” in the video. Seems like command is the only thing holding him back. Thanks Doug
He’s my bounce-back pick this year. Could see him top 50 and pushing for a rotation spot by Sept.
Really don’t think he needs to bounce back from anything. He just needs to continue to develop. His AA numbers were not great but were good for a 21 year old in AA. It is just a process.
+100 – this is his age 21 season and he’s already been in AA with passable results. Even a minor improvement there keeps him in top Reds prospect territory. Substantial improvement moves him way up the MLB prospect list.
He’s got 2 more years as a starter before even considering moving him to the pen.
Agreed. Plus, look how many guys develop pitches like cutters once they master their main offerings.
Many have fallen farther, for sure.
Assuming he starts back in Chattanooga, they’ve got a rotation with a lot of upside in Phillips, Boyle, Abbott, Roa, Bonnin, among others who will help fill out the innings.
Right, I’m looking forward to that rotation, and the AAA position prospects. When a couple of these pitchers filter up to AAA, it should make for a fun group to watch.
It’s a really varied group. I think Phillips is a reliever – likely a good one. But he’s not 6’2″ and the third pitch isn’t even close. He doesn’t look like someone who’s going even twice through a major league lineup. Of course, that’s based on seeing him in AA at 20 (? I think). That said, the fastball and slide are legit, and are a killer bullpen pair if the command comes.
Abbott is Lodolo-lite. I think he’s a 4 or 5. Consistency is pretty much what he needs to show and then he’s pretty much there.
I think Roa’s the dark horse. I really like what I’ve seen of him. The pitch mix, head, and arm/body seem to be there. He’s not 6’4″ either, but he’s 6’2″ish and the delivery is fluid. Only seen two starts, but that’s a dude with good MLB starter potential. Probably mid-to-back end as well, but a useful pitcher.
As someone who lives in a Reds MiLB town and doesn’t have a Cinci connection (indeed, I’m a fan of my own NL hometown team), I hope y’all don’t get offended at my occasionally hard-truth/pessimistic views. Fortunately, none on those guys. They’ve all got potential.
Typically I’d be all about the adage of keeping guys as starters so they can work on multiple pitches, building innings, etc. But, Bonnin and Roa have had health issues multiple times so I wonder how much thought, if any, has been given to fast tracking them via the bullpen.
I’ve got Chattanooga with Lyon Richardson (on the 40-man roster, he needs innings that reveal his role), Christian Roa (short stint last year paves the way), Andrew Abbott (half season then a bump if he’s solid), Joe Boyle (same), Connor Phillips (ditto). Sam Benschoter needs a spot too– and he’s really old.
AAA, fwiw, has Brandon Williamson and Levi Stoudt headlining a group that also includes depth options Ben LIvely and Kevin Herget, plus Carson Spiers, Eduardo Salazar (whom I like if he can add a couple mph as a relief arm), and Connor Curlis as a spot starter/ long reliever.
High A SP, then, would be a repeating Thomas Farr, ace Chase Petty, Steve Hajjar (if healthy), Javi Rivera, Juliuan Aguiar, and Hunter Parks. Tanner Cooper too, though he might end up in the pen as a spot starter/ long relief arm.)
This looks pretty good, actually. I think Curlis might have shorter-relief potential in whatever the LOOGY role has turned into. He had a couple appearances there at the end of the year and was clearly still figuring it out, but he seems like a hard worker who’s worth keeping around. Salazar is a definite pen arm. He’s not an MLB starter, but may be able to play up the velo and go an inning or two. Spiers I can’t seem to get a read on. I’ve seen him 5 or 6 times and it’s like a different guy every time out. I don’t think that bodes especially well.
I’ll be here with reports from the Scenic City (that’s Chattanooga, for the uninitiated) next year when I’m in the park. Looking forward to it already: I really think the Reds’ pipeline is turning into more of a fire hose. Just gotta make the right decisions with a lot of these guys.
@Eyeballs, your posts are excellent–keep them coming.
I’m curious as to how the second year of DJ’s top to notion pitching development program will play out. Even though Phillips is in AA, he’s still pretty young. But guys like Petty and Acuna are probably better guys to watch for that.
Awesome write-up Doug. To me, this is the only minor league starting pitcher we have that is comparable to the 3 guys we brought up last year. He has it all – and he was well below average age in the 2 levels he pitched at in 2022. He is awful young to be as good as he is and will naturally only get better. He just needs to stay healthy and build innings. Could be a big contributor in 2024.
Those were some interesting stats about which opposing team’s lineup hitter did well vs. poorly against him. Seems to suggest when he has to focus on the hitter he is unhittable and may let up a bit against the less dangerous hitters. I would think perfectly natural for a 20-21 year old and easily correctable.
Patreon has the Chase Petty write-up, likely soon to be posted here, and if you like Phillips, you like Petty as well. If one of these two makes it by late 2024/early 2025 they’ve done well. Plenty of time to build up innings and add 3rd/4th/5th pitches. Richardson could be in that category if he comes back from the time off, but a much steadier progression from Phillips and Petty.
Looking forward to the Acuna discussion, but the rest of those listed are closer to conversion to relief staff.
Yeah – I really liked writing up the report on Petty. The only thing that kept him from being ranked higher is just the fact that I’m not sure that he can maintain the stuff for 100 pitches and 150 innings. With how much the org limited him, I just want to see a little more in this area before really pushing him up the ranks….. but you can say I’m a big fan.