Getting to CHS Field

Best Defensive Shortstop In Franchise History Returns, Saints Sign Anthony Phillips

ST. PAUL, MN June 21, 2018

To his left, or right, charging slow hit grounders, barehanding a ball, or going deep into the hole, there has never been anyone better in St. Paul Saints franchise history to play the shortstop position.  And the numbers back that up.  He helped lead the Saints to the best record in franchise history, in 2015, before having his contract purchased by the Angels, and now he becomes the angel the Saints need defensively as shortstop Anthony Phillips signed on Thursday.


          The 28-year-old Phillips spent this season in the Colorado Rockies organization playing in 20 games between Double-A Hartford and Triple-A Albuquerque.  Between the two stops he hit .297 with five home runs and 18 RBI in 20 games.  In just 64 at bats he scored 13 runs, had six doubles, a .408 on base percentage, and .625 slugging percentage.


          Phillips spent one memorable season with the Saints in 2015.  He committed just 11 errors in 454 chances, a .976 fielding percentage, topping Kansas City’s Vladimir Frias, .973, as the only two shortstops with a .970 fielding percentage or better in 2015.  Phillips led the American Association in total chances and assists (307).  He finished just shy of the league’s shortstop fielding percentage record held by Ryan Khoury in 2014, who also had a .976 fielding percentage.  Phillips’ actual percentage was .97577, while Khoury was at .97609, but the league rounds the number to three decimal places and both are in the record books with a .976 fielding percentage.  The .976 fielding percentage was also a record for fielding percentage by a Saints shortstop.  Only 13 times has a shortstop had a .970 fielding percentage or better since 2009, four of them are Saints (Steve Mays, .970, in 2010, Joey Becker, .971, in 2014, and Jon Kristoffersen, .971, in 2017).


      Offensively, Phillips hit a solid .269 with two home runs and 35 RBI in 91 games.  In 323 at bats he scored 45 runs, smacked 11 doubles, three triples, a .316 on base percentage and .341 slugging percentage.  Phillips also finished tied for third in the league in sacrifice hits with 11.  He hit the lone grand slam for the Saints on July 18 at Sioux Falls.  He also put together a 10-game hitting streak from July 15-24.  On July 4 Phillips and Dan Kaczrowski became the first duo to hit back-to-back home runs at CHS Field.


On January 25, 2016 Phillips had his contract purchased by the Angles and spent the entire season at Double-A Arkansas.  He hit .259 with a home run and 37 RBI in 114 games.  In 347 at bats he scored 43 runs, ripped 11 doubles, had three triples, swiped nine bases, a .332 on base percentage, and a .317 slugging percentage.  He showed his versatility in the field playing all three outfield positions, along with second base, shortstop, and third base.  He did most of the heavy lifting at shortstop where he played 100 games and led the league with a remarkable .977 fielding percentage committing just 10 errors in 440 chances.  He led the Texas league in most games at shortstop, total chances, and assists (299).


Following the season Phillips joined his native country, South Africa, in the World Baseball Classic qualifier.  He played in all four games and was 6-13 with seven runs scored.  South Africa lost in the qualifying finals to Australia.


On January 20, 2017 Phillips signed as a free agent with the Rockies and was invited to spring training with the Major League club.  He ultimately spent the entire season at Double-A Hartford.  He hit .209 with four home runs and 24 RBI in 99 games.  In 287 at bats he scored 22 runs, had nine doubles, a .265 on base percentage, and a .282 slugging percentage.  Phillips homered in three straight games, from May 19-22, for the first time in his career.  He had homered in back-to-back games three times in his career.  He played 69 games at shortstop and had a .980 fielding percentage, committing just five errors in 251 chances.  He had the highest fielding percentage among shortstops that played at least 65 games at the position, but didn’t have enough chances to qualify for the league lead.  He also played an additional 33 games at second and did not commit an error in 124 chances.  Overall, Phillips had a .987 fielding percentage.


Phillips is an interesting story signing as a free agent when he was just 16-years-old out of South Africa by the Seattle Mariners. 


Phillip spent from 2007-2013 with the Mariners organization and one of his best seasons came in 2013 at High-A High Desert where he hit .259 with a career high nine homers and 43 RBI. 


In 2014 he played at three different levels in the Philadelphia Phillies organization: Single-A Lakewood, High-A Clearwater and Double-A Reading.  Between the three stops he hit .230 with two home runs and 24 RBI.


          In addition to leading the American Association in fielding percentage in 2015 and the Eastern League in 2016, Phillips also led the Northwest League with a .979 fielding percentage in 2010 and, in 2012, he led the Midwest League with a .976 fielding percentage.  Phillips has recorded a .970 fielding percentage or better at shortstop in six of his 10 seasons (not including 2018) and has a career .969 fielding percentage at short.  For context, that fielding percentage would put him in the Top 100 among shortstops in Major League history.


          In 2008 and 2009 Phillips represented South Africa in Olympic qualifying and the World Baseball Classic, respectively.  His father, Phillip, was the oldest man ever on an Olympic Baseball roster when he played for South Africa at the age of 44 in the 2000 Summer Olympics.


In order to make room for Phillips the Saints released infielder Dan Johnson.  The Saints roster stands at the league maximum 23, 12 pitchers and 11 position players.