Scouting Yankees Prospect #49: Nate Phillips

The New York Yankees selected high schooler, Nate Phillips in the 6th round of the 2004 draft and assigned him to the Gulf Coast Yankees. Phillips has impressed the Yankees with his great arm strength and left handed stroke. It's these reasons that he's our #49 Yankees' prospect. <b>(Free Preview of Premium Content)</b>

Vital Statistics
Name: Nate Phillips
Position: Catcher
DOB: January 24, 1986
Height: 6' 2"
Weight: 185
Bats: Switch
Throws: Right
Place of Residence: Arlington, Texas
How Acquired: The New York Yankees selected Nate Phillips in the 6th round (189th Overall) of the 2004 MLB Amateur Draft.

Doing some pitching and infield in his high school career at Grace Prep Academy in Arlington, Texas, the Yankees knew they had a couple options with Nate Phillips. The switch hitting infielder was followed religiously by Yankee scouts as most of their first ten rounds of picks usually are. Originally, the Yankees liked his potential more as a position player than as a pitcher even though he definitely had a big time arm. But, his bat was more than enough for the Yankees to draft him as a shortstop. However, would it be a permanent position for Phillips? No, the Yankees had new plans for their project, he was going to move behind the plate. Phillips, who has a naturally strong build, has a cannon for a right arm and is about as tough as they come. So, why not give him a shot behind the plate. Those were the Yankees thoughts and the 2005 season will yield the results of their Nate Phillips catching project.

Even though the Yankees never were totally on the boat for Nate Phillips to be raised as a shortstop in the Yankee organization and even for the idea that he was better fit for third base, they were willing to give him a season of playing shortstop in the pros before giving him the daunting task of a position switch. Therefore, the Yankees started Nate 41 times at shortstop, 6 times at third base and once at second base. He had mixed results, being able to make a great play and have the incredible arm strength to complete it but there was a lot of inconsistency. Not only was there inconsistency in the field but at the plate as well. Phillips had a roller coaster season with the bat in the Gulf Coast League and finished the season with a .242 batting average. However, there are better hitters than he that also falter in this league. Either way, his bat was not the point of concern for the organization but instead it was his defense. The question was, where would he have the most value to the organization? The Yankees wanted to have a long look at Phillips so they sent him to their mini-camp in Tampa after the regular season ended. It was there that the Yankees formulated their plan for Nate Phillips. They gave Phillips a lot of work at the catching position and suddenly they had something. Phillips looked to have the potential of an outstanding young defensive catcher that the organization desperately needed.

"It doesn't look like Nate is going to remain at shortstop," said Yankee roaming infield instructor, Andy Stankiewicz. "We think he can hit but the adjustment to the wooden bat was a little tougher on him. But, something that he has been worked on with is catching. He has looked pretty good so far. Nate has the arm and is tough enough for the position." Those are some strong words coming from a man that the organization relies quite heavily on to evaluate their infielders. But, it isn't only Stankiewicz that feels this way about Phillips. When the Yankees drafted him, they knew their options and that they would have to take Phillips as a project. He had a poor season at the plate in the Gulf Coast League but many have said to give him another season with the wood bat before making any judgments. It is expected that Phillips will be working hard over the winter to build up his endurance and strength. He'll need that endurance as it is expected that his playing time will be behind the plate next season. However, despite his superb catching potential, don't count out his offensive abilities just yet. At the age of 19, Phillips could make a name for himself in 2005.

Year

Team

AVG

AB

2b

HR

RBI

R

SB BB SO OBP

SLG

2004

GCL Yankees

.242

157

5

0

14

15

1 15 47 .320

.274


Batting and Power. Nate Phillips brings athleticism to all facets of his game and his offense is no exception. He bats from an upright, slightly open stance and and loves to extend his arms and drive the ball to all fields. Phillips has power potential but profiles more so as a sweet swinging gap hitter. His stroke is strong, smooth and is fairly short for a young hitter. However, Phillips seems to have more power potential from the left hand side of the plate despite being an, overall, solid hitter from both sides of the plate. But, if there was one complaint about his game, it is his patience and plate discipline. This is quite common for hitters of his age but his strikeout totals were sky high in 2004 and he only managed 15 walks in 157 at bats. Nate will need to improve upon those in 2005. The bottom line for him is that if he can have a decent stick, his throwing arm will carry him at the catching position. Also look for some natural gain in strength and maturity to benefit his offense.

Base running and Speed. If Nate Phillips makes a successful conversion to the catching position, there is no doubt that he will be one of the fastest runners at the position. He has above average speed and can really get down the line in a hurry. However, Phillips has not quite mastered base stealing as he swiped only one bag in 2004 with the Gulf Coast Yankees and was thrown out numerous times.

Defense. Being converted to a new position, many would think that it may be a tough transition that would cause some defensive difficulties. While this will be true for Nate Phillips, it is not going to be a pronounced struggle. As a very adaptable and intelligent young ballplayer, many scouts expect to see Phillips thrive behind the plate and develop into a superb defensive catcher. He has all the natural tools. First, everyone knows that he has a rocket launcher on his right shoulder also know as his arm. But, the best thing is that the majority of his throws are on line and the velocity comes easy for him. Reports are also good thus far on developing the throwing and quickness techniques of catching. Phillips also has an ideal catcher's body with a thick, well proportioned torso and is built solid. Also, Nate has developed the reputation for being a tough young man that could take hits on a day to day basis. Phillips was a solid defensive infielder but he has a chance to be a Gold Glove caliber player at his new found position considering his natural tools, toughness and determination.

Projection. At this point, it will be difficult to tell what the future holds for Nate Phillips considering his position switch. However, moving behind the plate will only help him become a big leaguer quicker. But, it appears that if Phillips can progress behind the plate, he will be feared by any and every base runner who tries to run on him. But, this is not to say that Phillips will be a pushover of a hitter. The Yankees drafted him upon his potential hitting skills and the switch hitter is going to have to be a project. He has good natural, athletic ability so only time will tell us what type of player he will be.

ETA. 2009. The year stated as Phillips expected time of arrival can only be looked at as an extremely vague timetable as to when a soon to be 19 year old converted catcher will make it to the big leagues. It is not an easy thing to predict. However, extra development time has to be allowed for Phillips because he is a true project. The Yankees are going to work hard on his hitting but are very excited so see what he could turn into behind the plate. But, all that can be expected right now as Phillips will likely return to the Gulf Coast League in 2005 to sharpen his offensive and defensive skills.

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