Comp pick Phillips 'a guy we really targeted'

Seattle also takes Texas A&M OF DeLoach in 2nd round

June 12th, 2020

SEATTLE -- While the Mariners selected three position players among the five college players taken in Thursday’s final portion of the 2020 MLB Draft, pitching again could turn out to be the story if 19-year-old right-hander Connor Phillips lives up to scouting director Scott Hunter’s hopes.

The Mariners landed the hard-throwing teenager out of McLennan Community College in Texas with the Competitive Balance Round B pick (64th overall) they acquired in December from the Brewers for catcher Omar Narváez and he’ll join an expanding pool of promising pitching prospects being accumulated by Seattle.

That group now also includes Emerson Hancock, the first-round pick Wednesday out of Georgia, as well as fifth-round addition Taylor Dollard out of Cal Poly.

The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Phillips turned down an offer to LSU in order to go the junior college route and be Draft-eligible after one year, and he pitched in just six games -- going 3-1 with a 3.16 ERA, 27 strikeouts and 15 walks in 25 2/3 innings -- before the season was shut down by the pandemic.

But the Mariners love Phillips’ potential, as well as a fastball that touches 98 mph and a four-pitch mix that should serve him well.

“He’s still learning how to harness his stuff,” Hunter said, “but he has a lot of comparisons to Trevor Bauer, the way he walks into the ballpark, his throwing program, even his delivery. This is a guy we really targeted on Day 2 and felt that Comp B pick was an outstanding chance to get an impact arm with a really big upside.

“He’s only 19. We actually had some interest in him last year out of high school, but he went to junior college to prove his worth and he came out on the winning side of that.”

The Houston native Phillips said that he’s eager to now “chase his dream” of playing professional baseball and looks forward to working with the Mariners’ developmental program.

“It ended up working out pretty decent for me,” he said. “I just need to control the baseball more and that just goes with my delivery and trying to repeat it. That’s why I might have dropped a little bit, but I know I can do it and have a great future doing it.”

Phillips won’t be the first Mariner to come out of McLennan CC. Jay Buhner, a member of the Mariners Hall of Fame, played for the Waco, Texas, school back in 1983-84.

The Mariners made five selections on Thursday as the Draft concluded. Here are the other four picks:

Round 2, 43rd overall: Zach DeLoach, OF, Texas A&M
DeLoach was a bit of a surprise that high in the second round, but the Mariners are intrigued by the potential of a youngster who had a breakout showing in the Cape Cod summer league in 2019 and was batting .421 with six home runs in 18 games with A&M this spring before the season was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The left-handed swinger hit just .239 with five homers his first two years at Texas A&M, but then posted a .353/.428/.541 line with five homers and 23 RBIs in 37 games against elite competition while using a wood bat in the Cape Cod League.

Third round, 78th overall: Kaden Polcovich, 2B, Oklahoma State
Polcovich’s dad, Kevin, played 165 games at shortstop for the Pirates in 1997-98 after working his way up as a 30th round Draft pick, and now Kaden will try to follow in his footsteps as an infielder who likely projects at second base. Kaden Polcovich spent two seasons at Northwest Florida State Junior College before transferring to Oklahoma State, where he slashed .344/.494/.578 with eight stolen bases in 18 games this spring. The 5-foot-8 switch-hitter also hit well in the Cape Cod League last summer, batting .305 with four homers and 28 RBIs in 40 games.

Fourth round, 107th overall: Tyler Keenan, 3B, Ole Miss
Keenan brings a big left-handed bat as a 6-foot-4, 240-pound junior, along with questions of whether he’ll remain at third base or wind up at first. There’s no questioning his power, as he hit 15 home runs for Ole Miss in 2019 and finished second in the College Home Run Derby, then he clubbed seven homers with 33 RBIs and a .403 average in 17 games this spring for a 16-1 Rebels club. For his college career, Keenan hit 31 homers with 137 RBIs in 139 games while posting a .306/.419/.550 slash line.

Fifth round, 137 overall: Taylor Dollard, RHP, Cal Poly
Dollard pitched out of the bullpen his first two years at Cal Poly, but he got a shot to start this spring and was impressive, with 36 strikeouts in 27 innings while going 1-0 with a 1.67 ERA against quality competition. He shut out Connecticut on two hits with 10 strikeouts over seven innings, struck out nine in seven innings in a no-decision against No. 5 Michigan and struck out 12 in seven innings against BYU. Dollard doesn’t feature a big fastball, but the 6-foot-3 California native earned First-Team All-Big West Conference honors after going 5-0 with four saves and a 2.89 ERA with 48 strikeouts and 13 walks in 19 relief appearances in 2019.