Name: Zach Phillips
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: September 21, 1986
Left-hander Zach Phillips was the Rangers' 23rd round pick in the 2004 MLB Draft. The hurler was drafted out of JUCO power Sacramento City Community College.
Upon signing, Phillips reported to the club's rookie level affiliate, the Arizona Rangers. The southpaw caught the eye of observers in a hurry, as he registered 73 strikeouts – versus 13 walks – in just 50.2 innings pitched. Phillips was able to baffle the overmatched hitters with his plus curveball.
The California native made the jump to Single-A Clinton in 2005, where he had a strange season. Phillips' strikeout numbers stayed strong, as he fanned 126 in 142 innings, and he was not hit particularly hard. He surrendered only five home runs the entire season. Still, Phillips was touched up for over 11 hits per nine innings and often struggled with control. The prospect walked 66 batters and uncorked 16 wild pitches.
The 21-year-old made his return to Single-A Clinton for the 2007 season and was one of the Midwest League's most consistent pitchers. Phillips made 27 starts with the L-Kings, spanning five months. He never posted an ERA above 3.44 in any of those months.
When the dust had settled, Phillips ranked third in the Midwest League in ERA (2.91) and second in strikeouts (157). He also issued just 43 free passes in 151.2 innings, a vast improvement from his 2006 campaign. Phillips' control largely improved because he was no longer trying to nibble and make the perfect pitch. After his early-season success in 2007, the prospect became a more confident pitcher and he did a better job of trusting his stuff.
Repertoire: Fastball, Curveball, Changeup.
Generally sitting between 89-91 MPH, Phillips doesn't have an overpowering fastball, but it is effective. The southpaw uses a two-seam sinking fastball and he keeps it low in the zone. Phillips has surrendered just 11 home runs in two seasons with Single-A Clinton, spanning nearly 300 innings. He also features a plus low-to-mid-70s curveball, which is one of the best breaking pitches in the system. Phillips' changeup, which he began to develop when he joined Rangers organization in 2004, has become an average pitch and it should continue to progress.
Projection: Phillips most likely profiles as a back of the rotation starter, but it is too early to write him off as just that. Although his fastball is far from dominant, he commands it well and currently has one big league-caliber strikeout pitch with his curveball. Phillips' overall command improved in his second year with Single-A Clinton, as he improved his strikeout-to-walk ratio from 1.9 to 3.7. If he continues to develop, Phillips' ceiling looks to be as a mid-rotation guy.
2008 Outlook: After spending two full seasons with Single-A Clinton, Phillips will finally make the jump to High-A Bakersfield in 2008. The California League is notoriously tough on pitchers, but with Phillips' ability to keep the ball down and in the ballpark, he could succeed there. Still just 21-years-old, Phillips will probably spend the entire season in the Bakersfield rotation.
Also See: Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Rick Adair (June 16, 2007)
Instant Analysis: Clinton/Kane County (June 23, 2007)
Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Zach Phillips (June 24, 2007)
Consistency is the key for Phillips (September 5, 2007)
Sizing up the left-handed pitching prospects (October 13, 2007)
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