Phillips' fast-twitch athleticism helped him become an all-county football player as a wide receiver his senior season—the only year he played varsity. To show you how athletic, he earned honorable mention on the all-county team.
In 2012, Brett graduated from Seminole High School in Florida with a baseball scholarship to North Carolina State in hand. But then get got drafted by the Astros (see Transactions below).
In 2013, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Phillips as 18th-best prospect in the Astros' organization in 2013. He was at #30 in the offseason before 2014 spring training. But they moved Brett all the way up to 6th-best prospect in Houston's farm system in the winter before 2015 spring camps opened.
Brett was at #4 in the Brewers farm system in the spring of 2016. He was at #12 when the 2017 book came out in February; and he was ranked at #7 in the winter before 2018 spring camp opened.
Scouts like Brett's high-energy approach. He impressed more for his energy and determination to succeed than for his stats over his first two seasons, 2013-2014.
“He’s a potential 20-20 guy at the big league level,” Astros farm director Quinton McCracken said of Phillips. “He has some pop in his bat and he can steal some bases.”
In 2014, the Astros named Brett their Minor League Player of the Year.
The weirdest laugh is out there for the world to see.
Brett has had teammates rolling around on the clubhouse carpet since they discovered his odd quirk: When he gets caught in a laugh, he cannot escape it. His mouth freezes open, his right eye closes, and he gasps for oxygen.
"If you see me like that," Phillips told a reporter early in camp, "don't worry. I'm really not having a seizure."
Naturally, his teammates have exploited Phillips' habit at every turn. They tried—and succeeded—to make him laugh while Phillips posed before a green screen during the team's photo day. Kevin Holden of Milwaukee's CBS television affiliate caught the moment on camera and shared it via Twitter.
"I wish it didn't have to be this way," Phillips responded. "But the Internet was gonna find out about it sooner or later!" (A McCalvy - MLB.com - February 27, 2016)
A very quirky thing about Phillips is he has an uncontrollable laugh. His father said he has been thrown out of restaurants because of it. (Intentional Talk interview-July 17, 2017)
MLB Debut (June 5, 2017): Phillips went 1 for 3 and committed an error debut against the Giants. The center fielder also threw out a runner at second in Milwaukee's 7-2 loss at Miller Park. Brett got his first big league hit when he singled in the seventh.
Brett Phillips balled in the driveways of America alongside greatness.
"Macho Man was my neighbor from 7th grade until 11th grade, before he passed away," Brett said. "Every day, he'd see me riding my bike home from school and he'd call me over to play basketball. You would think one of the days, one of the games, he would let up on me, but that was not the case. I got beat every time. You know how kids are always like 'one more game, one more game?' No, he was the one saying 'one more game,' and I'd be exhausted."
Brett used to play hoops with wrestling legend Randy Savage. Note that he called him "Macho Man," which gives rise to subsequent hopes that this is how Mr. Savage preferred to be addressed in his later years. (MLB.com- Matt Monagan and Adam McCalvy-June 7, 2017)
Phillips is a strong Christian. He participated in a Bible study group with other MLB players in the off season. (Intentional Talk interview-July 17, 2017)
October 2017: Phillips was named the Brewers Minor League Player of the year award by MLBPipeline.com.
The story of how Brett became known as Maverick starts when his father, Brett, was young and a popular television series known as "Maverick," starring James Garner, aired. Garner's character was named Bret Maverick.
"When my dad was younger, his dad used to call him Brett Maverick and then when my dad came of age to have a family, he wanted to name a child 'Brett Maverick Phillips," Phillips said. "So I was named that."
There was one problem, though. "When I was younger, anytime my mom [Jody] or my sister [Brittany] would yell out 'Brett!' both my dad and I would answer," Phillips said. "So my mom said, 'This isn't going to work.' So they started calling me Maverick instead."
To this day, Phillips' family calls him Maverick, as do many of the coaches he grew up with. "Now, I won't introduce myself as Maverick just because it sounds weird hearing me say it," Phillips said. "But having someone else say it to me, it sounds normal because I was called that all my life. I don't know, maybe I'll change it someday.
"I changed my Twitter handle to Maverick years ago. But it just doesn't sound right. Maybe if I just go by Mav, that would be different. Now, if people want to call me [Maverick] and it catches on, so be it."
Phillips expects to hear some Maverick cheers when playing the Tampa Bay Rays in August 2018. Phillips grew up in nearby Seminole, Florida, and expects anywhere from 800 to 1,000 friends, family and supporters to show up.
"My sister [Brittany] got an entire section to rent out," Phillips said. "This county [Pinellas] has really rallied behind me as someone they know and supported for a long time. So I went on Facebook and said I would be coming here to play the Rays. I was going to play here last year, but I got sent down right before the series and I was super disappointed.
"But anyway, I told everyone on Facebook I wouldn't be able to take care of everyone, but if I could get a section rented, who would be interested? That had like 850 likes on it and 350 comments from people saying they needed three or four tickets each. That kind of support is super nice. And my sister set it up. She's a big sister looking after her little bro." (Flanagan - mlb.com - 8/20/18)
Feb 9, 2019: When the Royals acquired speedy outfielder Brett Phillips from Milwaukee in the Mike Moustakas trade, Phillips immediately showed he could be a Royals-type defender, making numerous brilliant defensive plays in center field and right field. And despite a disappointing offensive showing in Kansas City, Phillips appeared in line to compete for the center field job this spring.
That all changed at the Winter Meetings, when the Royals signed former Red outfielder Billy Hamilton. But if you think that transaction got Phillips down, you don't understand his past. He was in the same position prior to last Spring Training, on the eve of Brewers' camp.
"I'm really in the same situation I was in last year, 2018," Brett said. "Not taking anything away from Billy, but I had Lorenzo Cain, and Christian Yelich and Ryan Braun to contend with in Milwaukee. That had been set in stone. There was no chance I was going to make that roster out of Spring Training."
Royals GM Dayton Moore have made it clear that in 2019 they will focus on being an elite team defensively and in terms of speed, returning to the formula that helped them get to back-to-back World Series in 2014 and 2015. That would appear to give Phillips an edge.
"There's this term I always go by and it's, 'If you hit, you don't sit," Phillips said. (J Flanagan - MLB.com - Feb 9, 2019)
Brett waited to clear COVID intake testing before joining the Rays, and he will play a few different roles on the team, according to manager Kevin Cash. Phillips, who is known for his defense, will serve as a defensive replacement in all three outfield spots and will get the occasional start.
The Rays will also use Phillips as a pinch-hitter in the right situations, and their plan to insert him as a late-innings pinch-runner proved fruitful in a 5-4 win over the Marlins, during which he pinch-ran in the eighth inning and stole third base.
“We’re excited to have him,” Cash said before the game. “He’s a player that, you look at what he’s done in the Minor Leagues and he’s kind of checked a lot of boxes. He’s really done some special things offensively, and then he got into that up-down phase, which is challenging. Maybe the opportunities haven’t been as much or as needed in the big leagues, but we like a lot of things that he does. We’re excited to have that type of player.”
Aside from being traded to a first-place team, Phillips said that he’s also excited about putting on the uniform of the team he grew up rooting for. Phillips, who attended Seminole High School in the Tampa Bay area. He said he has a lot of fond memories at Tropicana Field, including multiple Fan Fests and watching players such as Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton.
“This is a dream inside of a dream,” Phillips said before the game. “My excitement cannot be measured right now. When you’re a young kid, you want to play in the big leagues, and you don’t care what team you play for. And then when you make it to the big leagues, your dream inside this dream is playing for your hometown team.”
In the parking lot after the game, he also got a chance to see his family for the first time in seven months. (Toribio - mlb.com- 9/4/2020)
July 2, 2021: The Rays were trailing the Blue Jays 10-1 in the eighth inning when manager Kevin Cash made the call to his ... outfield.
With the game a blowout, outfielder Brett Phillips came on to make his Major League pitching debut, and it was hilarious.
“Kevin Cash came up to me in the dugout and said, ‘Hey, do you know how to pitch?’ And I mean, first off the bat, what kind of question is that?” Phillips said in a video made by the Tampa Bay Times. “I like to think I that have like a Mariano Rivera-esque cutter, Randy Johnson-type fastball, a reference ball that I didn’t even have to show last night because I didn’t have to.”
Phillips started off with a 94 mph fastball. After that, it was a steady stream of off-speed pitches. Really, really slow off-speed pitches.
The second pitch was exactly half the speed of the first.
Most amazing of all was Phillips’ pitching motion, which seemed that it could have been in “Monty Python.” (Pete Grathoff - The Kansas City Star)
April 12, 2022: Before the game at Tropicana Field, 8-year-old Chloe Grimes handed Tampa Bay outfielder Brett Phillips, her favorite player on her favorite team, a mint green and white rubber bracelet. Wrapped around the bracelet were the words: “Rally for Chloe our Princess Warrior.”
Phillips immediately put it on his left wrist and promised he’d try to do something special for her. Did he ever.
Inspired by Chloe, who’s battling cancer for the second time in her young life, Phillips launched a solo home run in the third inning hours before Manuel Margot laced a walk-off single to left field in the 10th to complete the Rays’ 9-8 win over the A’s. It was a welcome and wild win for Tampa Bay, one highlighted by a moment bigger than baseball.
“Perspective and appreciation for what I get to do on a daily basis, show up to play Major League Baseball and do this for a living,” Phillips said afterward. “And you have a young girl who’s 8 years old, battling cancer for a second time, and she can smile and enjoy her life? It’s crazy.” (A Berry - MLB.com - April 13, 2022)
June 2012: The Astros chose Phillips in the 6th round, out of Seminole High School in Florida. Scout John Martin signed him for $300,000.
July 27, 2018: The Brewers acquired Mike Moustakas from the Royals for prospect Brett Phillips and reliever Jorge Lopez.
- Aug. 27, 2020: The Rays acquired outfielder Brett Phillips from the Royals for infield prospect Lucius Fox.
|Birth City:||Seminole, FL|
|Draft:||Astros #6 - 2012 - Out of high school (FL)|
Phillips uses the whole field, but scouts have to project to give him even average power. He uses more of a contact-oriented swing at this point. He has good bat speed with a level lefthanded swing. He gets in trouble when he tries to pull the ball too much. (See the 2016 season.) He is best with his short, compact lefty stroke.
Brett could be a top of the lineup guy with his hitting ability and speed. He needs to hit to the middle of the field and both gaps.
He needs to incorporate a more consistent, repeatable lefthanded swing. His swing has some length in it when he falls into his "pull-happy-trappy." When he keeps it compact, he makes hard contact.
In 2014 and 2015, Phillips tweaked his swing to minimize an arm bar that had kept him from turning on inside pitches. With that issue addressed, he found the power that had never been apparent before. He went homerless in his first 108 pro games but connected for 13 with Quad Cities in 2014, including a run of five straight games.
Phillips’ could play small ball to a well-rounded outfielder who can beat out a bunt with his plus speed or crank a ball over the fence on occasion. But like most young hitters, Brett can get in trouble when he stays in pull mode, though he does also show an ability to hang in against lefthanders and play the short game.
Brett is still learning to handle pitches on the inner half.
Phillips has good bat control and strike-zone judgment. He can play as a top-of-the-order hitter. He knows the strike zone.
Brett hangs in well against lefthanded pitching.
Brett just wants to forget the 2016 season—call it a mulligan, or something.
“I’m putting that season behind me,” Phillips said early in 2017. “That was a learning experience for me. It was the first time in my career I failed. You learn from those failures. You learn how to deal with adversity.
“It was a matter of not being as selective at the plate. I might have been trying to do too much. I don’t have to do that. I just have to go out and be who I am.”
Phillips consistently hits any mistake a pitcher makes.
One simple change to how Brett gripped the bat quite possibly has turned his career around. Phillips made the adjustment in May 2019. Since then [as of August 16, 2019] he has hit 10 triples, 15 home runs, and posted a .623 slugging percentage and a 1.024 OPS at Triple-A Omaha.
“Honestly, the best thing that could have happened to my career was starting out in the Minors,” Phillips said. “Obviously there was a swing flaw. Everyone could see it. I could feel it. I’m thankful for the Royals to see it through.
“It was quite simple. It had to do with how I was holding the bat. It was so elementary. It makes me cringe talking about it because it was so simple. I was talking to outfielder Bubba Starling at the end of May and I said, ‘I’ve figured it out. I’m not going to tell you—we’ll see if I really did figure it out.’ But I hit two home runs that night. And Bubba’s like, ‘You got to tell me now!’” (Flanagan - mlb.com - 8/16/19)
Oct 24, 2020: Brett grew up a Rays fan. He remembers shouting at the top of his lungs at every key moment in franchise history, including when the club made the World Series for the first time in 2008. Phillips dreamed of playing for the Rays in a World Series, playing that scenario over and over again in his backyard.
That dream came to life as Phillips delivered the most memorable play in franchise history, a two-out, game-tying RBI single followed by a Dodgers error that gave Tampa Bay an 8-7, Game 4 victory over the Dodgers in one of the most improbable finishes in World Series history, tying the Fall Classic at two games apiece.
"To know the backstory, is to know the story," Phillips said. "When these guys were in the World Series, I was in eighth grade watching them. And now to be a part of it, helping these guys win a World Series game, it's special."
Down 7-6 in the ninth, the Rays desperately needed a hero. Phillips, now 26, was ready to be one. No matter that he hadn't had an at-bat in 17 days. No matter that he had been used primarily as a pinch-runner or defensive replacement since being acquired from the Royals on Aug. 27. No matter that he hadn't had a hit in a month.
Phillips dug into the batter's box against Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. Kevin Kiermaier, who had singled, was on second base and Randy Arozarena, who had walked, on first. There were two outs. Jansen started him with a cutter inside for ball one, then got two questionable called strikes. Down to his last strike, Phillips laced a cutter into right-center field.
"What a moment for him to step up to the plate in the biggest at-bat of his life with the game on the line and come through for us," Kiermaier. "It's a moment that no one will ever be able to take away from him and I'm so proud of him for coming up huge and winning the ballgame for us. Absolutely incredible."
"It was just awesome. I'm so happy for him," manager Kevin Cash said. "We're all happy for him. From the day that we acquired him and he joined our club, he's just brought constant energy, a great teammate. Hasn't had the most opportunities, but when he's got in there, he's done some things—none bigger than that hit right there, for sure. Local guy, too. That adds to it, I think. That helps."
There's just something about these Rays. And now they're only two wins away from winning the first World Series title in franchise history. (J Toribio - MLB.com - Oct 25, 2020) (Editor's note: In the 2020 World Series, the Dodgers beat the Rays 4 games to 2.)
Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and … Brett Phillips. No, we’re not misremembering the heart of the 1927 Murderers’ Row Yankees lineup. After a torrid stretch for the Rays, Phillips sits in the company of two inner-circle Hall of Famers, as first reported by The Athletic’s Jayson Stark.
First, the great Bambino. In a span of just 19 days, Phillips belted three grand slams and added an inside-the-park homer for good measure, making him the first AL/NL player to notch three slams and an inside-the-parker within a span of 30 days, according to STATS LLC. Per STATS, the previous AL/NL record holder for the shortest span recording all of those types of homers was none other than Ruth in 1929 (36 days).
As for Gehrig, Phillips’ three grand slams came within a span of just 19 plate appearances between July 29 and Aug. 11. Phillips joins the Iron Horse (20 plate appearances in 1931) and Tiger Jim Northrup (14 plate appearances, 1968) for the shortest three slam plate-appearance spans by any AL/NL hitter, per STATS.
According to STATS, Phillips is also the first AL/NL player since Willie McCovey (September 1967) to even rack up two grand slams and an inside-the-park homer in one calendar month.
“These are some of the greatest baseball players of all time,” Phillips told Stark in reaction to learning he had made such history, “and … it doesn’t even sound right for my name to be in the same sentence as theirs.”
Phillips is no stranger to weird history, of course, after he set in motion one of the wildest World Series plays in history in 2020’s Game 4. He may not actually be Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig at the plate, but history seems to follow him around.
“You don’t have to be the best player to do things like this,” Phillips told Stark. “I think in other sports, it’s tougher to be a bench guy and, in football or basketball, set records that have been [there] for 50 or 100 years. But that’s what makes baseball so special, is that you can have a guy like Brett Phillips, who comes off the bench and gets to play once or twice a week, and does something that Lou Gehrig or Babe Ruth did.” (Kelly - mlb.com - 8/20/2021)
- As of the start of the 2022 season, Brett had a career batting average of .202 with 23 home runs and 78 RBI in 590 at-bats.
- 2022 Improvements: During the Rays’ series in Seattle two weeks ago, Brett Phillips went to the plate eight times and struck out eight times. He struck out again in his first at-bat in Anaheim, giving him nine consecutive strikeouts. The next night, when the Rays were no-hit by Reid Detmers, the affable outfielder’s average dipped to .143 and his OPS to .450, and he had struck out in 45 percent of his plate appearances.
At that point, Phillips knew something had to change. He asked for help.
“The willingness came down to hitting .140 and striking out eight times in a row. You’ve got to make an adjustment,” he said Wednesday morning. “If something is not working, what’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over again and expecting different results. Change something.”
Over the last week, something has changed.
On Monday, Phillips had a career-high-tying three hits, including a double and a home run. On Tuesday, he homered again, the third time in his career he’s gone deep in consecutive games. On Wednesday, he pulled a single to right field. It was only three games, but it was encouraging.
After Monday’s performance, Phillips credited a bunch of people for helping him work his way out of that funk. Hitting coaches Chad Mottola, Dan DeMent and Brady North. Special assistant Denard Span. His wife, Bri. And Jillian Hawkins, who has the title of “applied biomechanist, performance science.”
In short, what Hawkins does is measure and evaluate players’ movements to try to help their performance or, primarily with pitchers, recognize warning signs that could lead to injuries. Working with coaches and Tampa Bay’s training staff, she helps players move more efficiently and get themselves in the best position to succeed.
In this case, she spotted a flaw in Phillips’ swing -- the angle of his hands, specifically -- that was holding him back. When the Rays returned home from their West Coast trip, Phillips sat down with Hawkins to break down three videos. One was from 2014, when Phillips hit .310/.375/.529 as an Astros prospect. The other was from the Seattle series, when he couldn’t hit anything. The last one was from May 10, when Phillips hit a single off (noted two-way rival) Shohei Ohtani.
They went frame by frame through all three videos. They paused the film, went into the batting cage, hit off a tee with the hitting coaches, made adjustments, then returned to the video until they found what they were looking for.
“First time I’ve worked with a biomechanist,” Phillips said, smiling. “Jillian brings a different perspective. Having a different set of eyes has just been so beneficial for myself and getting back to where I need to be.” (Adam Berry - May 20, 2022)
- Brett has a 70 grade for his arm. So right field is a good fit. But his 60 speed also makes him a solid center fielder, especially since he's improving his routes to the ball.
Phillips has quick-twitch explosiveness.
Brett has an incredible throwing arm. His throws have real good carry and are accurate. He can play any of the three outfield positions.
He plays well defensively and is a bundle of energy—an exciting, talented player with impressive instincts for the game. He is a grinder.
If the Brewers need a pitcher, they might think about giving their rookie center fielder a shot.
After catching a fly ball from Elias Diaz, Brett Phillips unleashed the strongest throw measured by Statcast in 2017— a 104-mph dart from center field to home plate to retire the Pirates' David Freese.
September 19, 2017: Brett kept the potential tying run from even thinking of trying to score from third in the sixth on a flyout to center.
Phillips unleashed a 104.7-mph throw to the plate—the hardest-thrown ball this season, according to Statcast. And he now owns the top three hardest outfield throws for 2017.
Brett is a 55 or a 60 runner. He has impressive speed. He runs well and has good instincts on the bases.
Looking a little deeper, Phillips has 50 speed out of the box, but 60 speed once under way.
August 2015: Phillips suffered a bruised hand and thumb at Double-A Biloxi in the closing weeks of the season. But he returned in time to hit .286 with five extra-base hits in eight games in the Southern League playoffs.
May 19-28, 2016: Phillips was on the D.L. with a strained hamstring.
Aug 28-Sept 4, 2020: Brett was on the IL.
- March 15-April 9, 2021: Brett was on the IL due to a left hamstring strain.
- Aug 30-Sept 12, 2021: Brett was on the IL with a right ankle sprain.