ARLINGTON -- The Rangers had a number of bright spots in their farm system this past season, but outfielder Scott Heineman and pitcher Tyler Phillips were at the top of the list.
Both have had to overcome their share of adversity in their young professional careers, but in 2018 they showed they have bright futures in the Rangers' organization. Heineman and Phillips were the Rangers' Hitting and Pitching Prospects of the Year.
Each team's Hitting and Pitching Prospects of the Year were chosen by the MLB Pipeline staff. To receive consideration, players must have spent at least half the year in the Minors and appeared on the team's Top 30 Prospects list.
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Heineman was not a surprise. He was an 11th-round pick out of the University of Oregon in 2015 and did not play that season while recovering from foot surgery. From that slow start, though, he has moved quickly through the system and, after two strong years at Class A Advanced High Desert and Double-A Frisco, was invited to big league camp last spring.
He wasn't a candidate for the big league roster, but is definitely on the radar. He was promoted to Triple-A Round Rock after just seven games at Frisco and hit .295/.355/.429 with 20 doubles, 11 home runs, 57 RBIs and 16 stolen bases.
"I saw a guy who had a really good year offensively and matured a lot at the Triple-A level," Triple-A manager Jason Wood said. "When he came to us two weeks into the season, he brought a lot of energy when we needed it, and continued that all season. He stayed in the middle of the lineup all season and did a good job scoring runs, stealing bases, hitting for average."
The Rangers put a premium on versatility and Heineman showed that by playing all three outfield positions for Round Rock. He had 48 starts in right, 43 in center and 13 in left. That versatility could be appealing when the Rangers put together an outfield next spring.
"Defensively he's got a few things to work on, but this is a guy who can play all three positions," Wood said. "Right field is his best, but I have no problem putting him in center. He can cover ground and has a good arm. I wouldn't be surprised if he comes into camp next year with a chance to make the team."
Phillips was a 16th-round pick out of high school in 2015. He was just 17 when drafted and his first few years were rough. He was 1-2 with a 6.39 ERA in seven games for Class A Hickory in 2017 and ended up getting demoted to Class A Short-Season Spokane. It was there that he started blossoming, going 4-1 with a 2.38 ERA in his last eight starts.
He carried that over to Class A Hickory this season, going 11-5 with a 2.67 ERA in 22 starts. He averaged 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings with a 1.02 WHIP.
"I think it is what got into Tyler Phillips at the end of last year," Rangers farm director Jayce Tingler said. "Three swing-and-miss pitches. He has always had good fastball command and a good changeup. The evolution of his curveball was a big pitch for him. And just maturing. He was one of the youngest guys out of the Draft a few years ago, as a 17-year-old."
Phillips made one start at Class A Down East and that could be where he begins next season. His ability to eventually make the crucial jump to Double-A Frisco will be most telling, but the Rangers believe a strong pitching prospect has emerged in their system.
"We see him as a Major League starter and continue on that route," Tingler said. "I don't know his ceiling, is he a No. 2 or a No. 3? I don't think we know yet at his age and development. I just know we believe he has a chance to log innings as a starter and be a successful Major League pitcher."