The players got the official call approximately one hour before the Rangers sent out a press release about the additions.
Phillips, 23, has had excellent seasons in the past, but he took a gigantic step forward in 2009, as he moved to the bullpen. The Sacramento native opened the season back in Bakersfield, and he posted a 1.23 ERA in 44 innings. Phillips surrendered just 19 hits, walked only 11, and struck out 46. Although Phillips struggled with control a bit upon his promotion to Frisco, his walk totals decreased as he got more experience, and he finished with a 1.60 ERA in 33.2 innings for the RoughRiders. On the season, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound lefty had a 1.39 ERA and yielded just 46 hits in 77.2 innings.
The following is a scouting report that appeared in a Lone Star Dugout article profiling the system's left-handed relief prospects:
The 23-year-old made the transition to the bullpen this season, and he immediately broke out as one of the organization's top relief prospects. Phillips made his High-A debut in 2008, pitching in the rotation for Bakersfield. He was inconsistent, posting a 5.54 ERA in 144.2 innings, but it was the 161 hits and 73 walks that were the biggest issue. Although his stuff had remained virtually the same as previous years, he was walking more batters while striking out fewer.
Phillips came out this season and was virtually unhittable for the Blaze, surrendering just 19 hits in 44 innings of work, leading to a 1.23 ERA. While Phillips' velocity ticked up a notch out of the ‘pen [from 86-88 mph to 88-90], the improvement was all about command. The Sacramento native often fell behind hitters and his two-seam fastball sat up in the zone too often. This summer, he took on a more aggressive approach, consistently attacking the bottom half of the strike zone and nailing his spots. Phillips has had a good curveball since entering the Rangers' system, but his changeup is beginning to make the difference. The lefty's change has gradually progressed over the last few years and it has developed into a legitimate plus pitch. Though Cal League lefties were just 4-for-66 with zero extra-base hits against Phillips this season, the change helped him be tough on righties, as he held them to a .180 clip between High-A and Double-A.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound hurler had solid overall results with Frisco [1.60 ERA in 33.2 innings], but he again showed a tendency to fall behind hitters a bit, leading to 19 walks. Phillips' control gradually improved as he adjusted to the Double-A level. In the end, it's all about fastball command for Phillips. If he can throw quality strikes down in the zone with his two-seamer, his curve and change will allow him to be an effective Major League reliever.
|Kirkman touches 94 mph. b>|
The following is a scouting report that appeared in an article on November 11:
The 23-year-old experienced his breakout season in 2009 after overcoming injury and control issues that plagued him for parts of four seasons. Kirkman had success in his return with Single-A Clinton in 2008, sitting largely between 88-90 mph with his fastball. The 6-foot-4 hurler moved up to Bakersfield to start the '09 season, and his velocity ticked up to the 91-93 mph range, touching 94 a handful of times per start. He dominated with the Blaze and held his own at Double-A Frisco, improving as the season progressed.
Kirkman's above-average velocity held up throughout the season–a promising sign for a pitcher who shattered his career high with 144.2 innings pitched this past summer. He used a slider as his strikeout pitch while also flashing a usable curve and a changeup. Because of the injuries, Kirkman still doesn't have much experience yet, and he needs to refine his command across the board. Kirkman could serve as a power lefty out of the bullpen if he doesn't develop as a starter, but that still remains to be seen down the line.
Lone Star Dugout will be interviewing both players in the coming days.