An under the radar signing this past off-season, Phillip Evans, could solidify himself as a long term utility option for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
It’s not everyday you run into a guy who can play wherever you can put him, and be a productive batter as well. The last guy who I can think of off the top of my head that really broke out into both a good defender at multiple positions and was useful with the bat is Dodgers’ utility man Chris Taylor. In the past three seasons, Taylor has a .268/.340/.468 line, 50 long balls, 98 doubles, and a 116 wRC+. He has also played an ample amount of time in the outfield, middle infield, and occasionally third base. He also isn’t really bad at any position.
Throughout this past off season, the Pittsburgh Pirates made a fairly minor signing. On December 17, they signed a handful of really un-notable names, one of which was Phillip Evans. Evans up until that point hadn’t really done much to put his name on the map. He was selected in the 15th round of the 2011 MLB Draft by the New York Mets, but never appeared on any prospect lists.
In 2017 and 2018, Evans saw a bit of MLB playing time with the New York Mets. He only played in 34 games and received 61 plate appearances. Evans collected just 13 hits, struck out 16 times, and walked six times. Last year, he didn’t appear in the Majors, but spent the entire year with the Chicago Cubs’ Triple-A team. He did hit for a solid .283/.371/.471 with a 106 wRC+.
While these are his best numbers at any minor league level across a full season, remember he was in the Pacific Coast League. Last year, it was notoriously hitter friendly with the league home run leader, Kevin Cron, blasting 38 in just 82 games and the Houston Astros’ Rookie of the Year winner, Yordan Alvarez blasting off 23 times in the span of 53 games.
His overall career line at Triple-A is a .276/.351/.454 line. However, Evans can crush left handed pitching. Last year at Triple-A, the right handed batter was hitting .349/.430/.550 vs southpaws. This isn’t anything new as he hit .362/.439/.810 vs lefties in 2018 and .330/344/.484 vs lefties in 2016.
But while Evans might not be all that great of a batter, he has experience all over the field. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has a lot of experience at shortstop and second base. Though he hasn’t played it as frequently as 3B/2B/SS, he has 178.2 professional innings logged at first base, and 160 innings logged in the outfield.
This Spring Training, Evans collected 11 hits including four doubles and two home runs while striking out nine times. So far in the four games he has played during the regular season, Evans has five hits in 15 plate appearances, with two being doubles. Plus, he’s walked two times. He’s so far gotten on base 50% of the time. Now of course, very small sample sizes, but it’s still worth pointing out.
If Evans can show he can hit MLB pitching at a competent level, he could be a long term bench utility piece for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Something like the next Chris Taylor, Brock Holt or Kike Hernandez. Evans can adequately play third base, the middle infield, and left field, while still hitting left-handers at an above average rate and providing a bit of pop off the bench, he’ll find a spot on the Pirates roster for the next few years. He could possibly even be one of the more valuable players on the team’s roster given his defensive versatility.