After surprising some with the selection of OF Zach DeLoach in the second round, the Mariners returned to their security zone by selecting a college arm with their third pick (Comp Round B) in the 2020 draft. This isn’t the typical college arm, though; Connor Phillips is a right-handed pitcher from Texas who was drafted last year by the Blue Jays in the 35th round. Phillips declined to sign, but instead of attending LSU as planned, decided to go the JUCO route, heading off to McLennan Community College in Waco.
Teams were interested in Phillips as a prep thanks to his plus fastball, which could touch 97, coupled with a plus curveball that sits in the high 70s and shows good depth. However, they were concerned over how often his fastball got hit, especially when it sat more in the 92-94 range. The 6’2” Phillips utilizes an over-the-top delivery to get downward plane and some scouts questioned if a different arm slot could result in better outcomes for the fastball.
Mechanically there is a lot to like about Phillips’s delivery; it’s a quick arm with excellent torque and strong core engagement, and he’s using his legs much better now than in his high school film:
Somebody Toronto's kept tabs on, McLennan RHP Connor Phillips, was up to 94 in this start against San Jacinto, sitting 91-92 while flashing a plus-SL. Reportedly up to 98, sitting 95-96 in short stints. Fantastic Lower Half torque. Strong core and great hip-shoulder seperation. pic.twitter.com/6tMvAMKOXR— Mason McRae (@mason_mcrae) June 6, 2020
That arm action looks pretty similar, though, and with a shortened season, there wasn’t much opportunity to see if Phillips had made any significant changes to his delivery.
Phillips is more raw than the traditional college pitcher the Mariners favor, and as of today is just 37 days into his 19th year, making him the kind of moldable prospect many of us crave but with more polish than a typical high schooler given three-pitch mix (fastball, curveball, and changeup, with the change being significantly behind the other two). Phillips might also not be at the ceiling for his physical projection, especially as he utilizes his legs more, and could pick up some more good muscle under a pro training regimen. It’s not the prep pick so many of us hoped for, but there’s still a very exciting developmental project to watch here given the raw tools. And hey, it worked out pretty well for another McLennan CC grad—one Jay Buhner.