My last update profiled three of the six Braves prospects playing in the Arizona Fall League. This edition will provide some insight to those omitted last week.
First is right handed pitcher Chris Ellis. Chris is a 24 year old, 6’5″, 205 lbs, who was drafted in the third round (88th overall) by the LAX Angels in 2014. He was part of the return package for Andrelton Simmons which also netted Sean Newcomb and Erick Aybar. Ellis spent the better part of last season as part of the Gwinnett staff pitching after beginning the season in double A Mississippi. His record of 8 wins and 2 losses earned him a promotion to Triple A where he found the sledding a bit tougher. After promotion to the IL, his record sagged a bit to 3-7 with an ERA of 7.04 in 14 games and 62-2/3rds innings.
So far in the AFL, he continues to struggle with the strike zone with 11 walks and 10 strikeouts while giving up 15 hits and 14 runs, 11 earned after only 4 games and 12 innings pitched. Not exactly the kind of numbers one would hope to see from a top tier prospect. Perhaps he is tired, maybe he has an ailment he is not revealing or maybe he is trying to prefect a new pitch but whatever, it does not look good for the young righty from Mississippi. I think he is still growing into his body. Until he is able to command his pitches better, he will remain a prospect and not see the major leagues.
Next up is Evan Phillips, 6’2″, 215 lbs, a 22 year old right handed reliever who played college ball at UNC-Wilmington, NC. Drafted in the 17th round by the Braves, Phillips is one of those rare gems every scout dreams of and every GM looks brilliant for finding them and then taking them at a low cost low risk high reward situation. Phillips has shined at every stop in his professional career. While he has not put up the eye popping numbers of Jared Miller, a Diamondback prize, he was chosen as the Braves lone representative for the AFL All-star game. So far, he continues to record outs while pitching in a relief role. To date, he has appeared in six games, hurling 7.2 innings with 10 Ks and 5 walks. Aside from his first appearance, he has been solid in relief for the Salt River Rafters. While he has given up three earned runs, he has a .143 BA against so far in the AFL.
Evan is currently listed as the Braves #99 prospect but I suspect that number will rise as he continues to progress in the Braves system. His good work in Arizona will likely earn him an invite to the Braves’ spring training camp with the big boys to continue evaluate his potential against top flight hitters. Phillips works with a three-pitch mix, featuring a fastball in the 91-94 range, touching as high as 96. He also features a hard slider and a hard curve as his third pitch, both in the mid-80s in velocity. The knock on Phillips has been his lack of control but since moving to being used strictly as a reliever, his control has improved. Don’t be surprised to see his name linked in one of the many trade rumors we are likely to hear about this winter.
Lastly, in this trio, is cajun catching prospect Kade Scivicque (pronounced Siv-EEK) 6’0″, 225 lbs. Kade was acquired from the Detroit Tigers organization in exchange for Erick Aybar at the trade deadline. The 23 year old native of Baton Rouge, LA, was a lightly scouted player out of LSU, taken 340th overall by the Tigers in 2016. He was not highly touted but his coaches all praised his leadership skills. He has been a little slow to develop his offense but has shown flashes of late in getting the bat on the ball. He is considered a “project” and potentially a backup candidate for the major leagues but then, you never know when a guy will finally have the lights turned on and he will “get it”. After the disappointment the Braves experienced with Bethancourt who we all heard was the next Johnny Bench, the Braves could use some over-achievers at the backstop position. I expect he will begin the 2017 season at Pearl Mississippi but if his bat continues to heat up, he could find himself at Triple A a couple of seasons ahead of schedule. He is currently batting a respectable .317 for the Rafters but it is a truly small sample size.
Next time I will preview the current Braves plying their trade in the other winter leagues.