Brewers in AFL: Phillips keeps up hot hitting in Surprise
Brett Phillips knew something was up when Double-A Corpus Christi's coaching staff called him into their office on July 30, one day ahead of Major League Baseball's non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Phillips was informed that the Astros had traded him to the Brewers as part of a blockbuster deal for Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers, with Milwaukee also receiving outfielder Domingo Santana as well as pitching prospects Josh Hader and Adrian Houser.
"At first it was bittersweet," reflected Phillips, MLBPipeline.com's No. 32 overall prospect. "You establish relationships with the coaches and players in that organization, and all of a sudden, you're going to a new organization where you have to meet new guys."
But the 21-year-old quickly came to terms with the situation, realizing that he might have a clearer path to the Major Leagues with his new team.
"Looking at it from the outside, it's a good opportunity for me," he said. "We were traded for some of Milwaukee's good guys, so going into the organization, you have to look at what's best for your career."
Prior to the trade, Phillips batted .320/.377/.548 with 16 home runs, 27 doubles, 11 triples, 71 RBIs, 90 runs scored and 15 stolen bases in 97 games between Class A Advanced Lancaster and Corpus Christi. But the 2012 sixth-round Draft pick scuffled at the plate after joining Double-A Biloxi, producing a .250/.361/.413 batting line in 23 games for the Shuckers. On top of that, Phillips also landed on the disabled list for the first time in his career during the final week of the regular season.
"When I went over there -- I'm going to be honest -- I tried to do too much," said Phillips, the Brewers' No. 2 prospect. "It's human nature to want to go over and try to be someone you're not and try to do too much. I struggled a little bit, and it was a learning experience for me there in the beginning."
The left-handed hitting outfielder returned fully healthy for the postseason and helped propel Biloxi into the Southern League finals, posting a 1.062 OPS with five extra-base hits in eight games across two series. Meanwhile, Phillips' hot hitting has carried over into the Arizona Fall League, where he's batting .318/.444/.500 through six games for the Surprise Saguaros.
"I was hoping to come here with the Astros before I got traded," he noted, "but it was Milwaukee's decision to send me here, and I'm just excited to be playing with and against the best guys in the Minor Leagues."
Brewers hitters in the Fall League
• Nate Orf, 2B -- Orf spent the year at Double-A Biloxi, where he batted .274/.378/.368 with 32 extra-base hits and 65 runs scored in 127 games. The 25-year-old is off to a great start in the Fall League, with a .500 batting average (9-for-18) and six RBIs in four games for Surprise.
• Michael Reed, OF -- Milwaukee's No. 17 prospect showcased an intriguing combination of on-base skills, gap power and speed during his time at Biloxi and Triple-A Colorado Springs, batting .269/.371/.410 with 45 extra-base hits and 26 stolen bases in 131 games between both stops. The 22-year-old had his contract purchased in late September and went 2-for-6 in seven games for Milwaukee.
• Yadiel Rivera, SS -- The club's No. 18 prospect split the season between Biloxi and Colorado Springs, batting .253/.298/.331 in 133 games while seeing work at shortstop, second and third base. Like Reed, Rivera was promoted to the Major Leagues in late September following the conclusion of the Southern League playoffs. The 23-year-old owns a robust .500/.542/.818 batting line and has driven in 10 runs in five games for the Saguaros.
Brewers pitchers in the Fall League
• Jacob Barnes, RHP -- Barnes, 25, began the season in Biloxi's starting rotation before transitioning to the bullpen in mid-May. In the latter role, the 6-foot-2, 230-pound right-hander pitched to a 3.09 ERA with 57 strikeouts and did not allow a home run in 46 2/3 innings (33 appearances). Barnes has fanned four batters in three scoreless innings this fall.
• Josh Hader, LHP -- The 21-year-old southpaw continued his climb toward the Major Leagues this past season behind a 3.03 ERA, a .224 opponents' batting average and a 119/35 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 104 innings between Corpus Christi and Biloxi. The Brewers' No. 14 prospect has shown more velocity (94-96 mph) in the AFL, but he has also had problems finding the strike zone, issuing four walks in four innings across two appearances.
• Adrian Houser, RHP -- Houser scuffled during the first four months of the season between Lancaster and Corpus Christi, but things seemed to click for the 22-year-old righty upon joining Biloxi (2.92 ERA in seven starts). The No. 27 prospect's late-season success has carried over into the Fall League, as he's yet to be scored upon in six innings (two starts).
• Damien Magnifico, RHP -- Selected by the Brewers in the fifth round of the 2012 Draft, Magnifico was developed as a starter during his first three pro campaigns before shifting to the bullpen this past season at Biloxi. Although the 24-year-old right-hander excelled as the Shuckers' closer, recording 20 saves and a 1.17 ERA in 53 2/3 innings, his inability to miss bats (38 strikeouts) and strong ground-ball tendencies suggest he might be better suited for a middle-relief role.