PHOENIX -- Brett Phillips career path changed that week in January when the Brewers acquired a pair of All-Star-caliber outfielders in Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain."You see the depth chart," Phillips said, "and it looks from the outside looking in, I'm blocked. That's all right."Phillips may be blocked from starting
PHOENIX -- Brett Phillips career path changed that week in January when the Brewers acquired a pair of All-Star-caliber outfielders in Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain.
"You see the depth chart," Phillips said, "and it looks from the outside looking in, I'm blocked. That's all right."
Phillips may be blocked from starting the season in the Major Leagues. But the big picture has not changed.
"Brett Phillips is going to be a big leaguer for a long time," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said.
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Phillips' future could hardly be brighter. That's the bottom line. He's 23 years old and coming off a season in which he had .944 OPS in 105 games for Triple-A Colorado Springs.
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Phillips, the Brewers' No. 6 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, had two stints with the Brewers in 2017 and made the most of them. In the final month of the season, with the club fighting for a playoff berth, Phillips hit .308 in 22 games, 14 of them starts. He performed with the aggressiveness and emotion which were defining characteristics of Milwaukee's team last season.
"What it did for me -- and what it showed them -- is they can trust me," Phillips said, "and if they do call me up, they know what they can expect. Last year, I basically opened their eyes to show I can play and contribute at this level.
"Obviously, I hope my teammates know they can rely on me. I've just got to continue to be that player when the time comes. As of right now, I'm blocked. Everyone knows it. I've got to stay in my lane and not worry about the things I can't control."
Here's what happened he couldn't control: Brewers general manager David Stearns had an opportunity to acquire two impact outfielders and went for it. Had things turned out differently and Phillips opened this season in the starting lineup, lots of Brewers fans would have been excited.
But Milwaukee won 86 games and missed the postseason by one game in 2017. Yelich and Cain make the team better. It's not complicated.
"I don't think it blocks anyone," Stearns said. "We recognize that you need a whole lot of players to get through a Major League season. Brett came up last year and made his Major League debut and did a tremendous job. He gained some valuable experience.
"Whether he starts the year in the Major Leagues for us or at Triple-A, we're confident Brett Phillips is going to make an impact on this team."
The Brewers acquired Phillips from the Astros in the summer of 2015 when he'd just turned 21 and was having breakout Minor League season; he hit .309 with 14 triples and 16 home runs with a .901 OPS in 120 games between the Class A Advanced and Double-A levels
"That was unlocking the potential I didn't know I had," Phillips said. "From there, it's been level to level each year. It was a matter of maturing as a player and as a person. I've been getting stronger, getting bigger."
And then last summer, he made his Major League debut and continued his growth. As Stearns said, the Brewers expect him to be back at some point this season and hope he shows them the same high-octane play they got from him last year.
"I'm a high-energy guy," Phillips said. "I'm a high-energy player. I want to be the best teammate I can be. I've always been like that. Looking back at my career, everything has always unfolded the way I would want it to. I think it's a testament to just being a good person and trusting the plan. That's where I'm at."
Meanwhile, he said that an opportunity to spend a spring around three veteran outfielders -- Yelich, Cain and Ryan Braun -- has been beneficial.
"For me, on a daily basis, it's just being a sponge and learning from them and how they go about their business, their routine," Phillips said. "They have a lot they can help me with in my career. I'm trying to listen to everything they have to say.
"I look at a guy like Ryan Braun, and he's the same guy every day. His swing's the same. For me, I can only hope to get to a point where I'm that mature as a player. It's really cool to be part of a team with these guys on it."
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.