Phipps Looks to Get Back on Track in Arizona

After five years of obscurity in the Cincinnati organization OF Denis Phipps zoomed onto many radars after a breakout season in 2011. He had an impressive spring training and was considered a candidate for promotion before struggling at Louisville to start this season. He's now rehabbing at Arizona after spending a month on the DL from a shoulder injury.

The AZL Reds fell behind 9-3 in the second inning and came up short in their comeback in an 11-9 loss to the visiting Giants. Donald Lutz went 4-4 with a double, two triples, and three RBI in the losing effort. He's now 9-14 since coming off the DL. The other rehabber, Denis Phipps was 2-4 with a home run. He's gone 7-16 with 2 HR in Arizona.

The Reds pitching was victimized by six errors on the day which led to ten unearned runs. Starter Vaughn Covington took the loss when he gave up nine in three innings. Eight of those runs were unearned. Lorgi Pineda allowed two unearned in three innings before Luke Moran and Jackson Stephens combined for three scoreless.

Phipps started the season at Louisville before going on the DL with a shoulder injury on May 16. He shot up through the Reds system last year when he hit .328 at AA Carolina and .380 over 40 games after a promotion to Louisville. That performance earned him an invitation to spring training where he hit .316 in 20 games and perhaps drew some consideration for a reserve outfield spot on the opening day roster. After opening day he commenced to struggle mightily with the Bats hitting only .168 in 38 games.

Phipps entered the Reds organization after he was signed as a free agent out of San Pedro de Marcoris, DR. He was older than most Dominican signees because he did not start playing the game until his late teens. He got his first action as a 20 year-old in 2006 in the rookie leagues where he hit .289. He spent the next two seasons at Dayton and hit around .250. He continued hitting around that rate for the next couple of years bouncing between high-A and AA. In 2010 he started out batting .333 in 38 games for Lynchburg, but that dropped to .228 after a promotion to Carolina. Last year things started to come together and he received a spot on the Reds' 40-man roster before this season.

Phipps is listed at 6'3/210# and bats/throws right-handed. All of his action has been in the outfield, mainly in right and center. Most of his career he did not show much power with a .401 SLG% over seven seasons, but he did put up a .527 during his breakout year. He's a free-swinger at the plate and even last year struck out more than once per game. He has managed to walk in over 7% of his plate appearances and keeps a normal AVG/OB% differential around .060'. He has some speed on the base paths with as many as 18 SB's in a season with a success rate of 64%.

In the field he was rated as having the best outfield arm in the Southern League in 2011 and he's gunned down 84 runners in seven seasons (19/162 games). His best position is right field, but he projects more as a fourth outfielder playing all three positions. In 256 minor league games in center he ran down a decent 2.4 PO/game. His lifetime fielding percentage is .972, but he made only three errors last year and one thus far in 2012.

Phipps is definitely a late-bloomer. After five years of obscurity he rocketed onto many lists of top Reds prospects coming into this season. Louisville manager David Bell tweeted: "Struggled. Turned corner. Clicked. Sky limit. Could be superstar. ML sooner than later." It's possible that his 2011 performance was considered when Dave Sappelt was included in a trade package this off-season. Unfortunately baseball can be a fickle game. After a meteoric rise Phipps is working to prevent his career from fizzling out as he nears his 27th birthday. Instead of getting the call from the Reds he's in Arizona. Perhaps the seriousness of the shoulder can be blamed for his performance this season. After almost a month off he's looking good so far at Goodyear. It will be interesting to see how he fares given another shot at the AAA level.

Other News from the Farm:

Louisville is clicking on all cylinders as they won 5-3 at Buffalo for their ninth win in a row. They tied the game with two in the eighth inning and won it with two more in the ninth. Felix Perez has been a major contributor to the streak and he came up big last night going 4-4 with two doubles. Cody Puckett also kept his bat hot with a couple of hits. He's now 17-33 over his last nine games. Bill Rhinehart added two more hits and drove in two. Starter Tim Gustafson allowed two runs on seven hits in four innings. J.J. Hoover threw a scoreless eighth and got the win and Donnie Joseph shut down the ninth for the save. After putting up a sub-one ERA at Pensacola Joseph hasn't allowed a run in six appearances for the Bats.

After falling behind 4-0 Pensacola came up short against visiting Jackson in a 4-2 loss. Catcher Brian Peacock had a couple of hits and he's now batting .319 in his 22 games with the Wahoos, including 7-15 in four games since coming back from Louisville. Tim Crabbe allowed all four runs (three earned) in five innings and took his fourth loss. Brian Pearl and Mark Serrano each threw two scoreless innings of relief.

Bakersfield took a 3-0 lead in the first before allowing the winning run in the eight in a 4-3 loss at Visalia. Travis Mattair went 3-4 and provided all the Blaze runs on a three-run homer. He's gone 11-24 (.458) with three homers over his last six games. Starter Josh Smith allowed three runs on four hits in five innings while striking out seven. Andrew Brackman pitched the eighth and took the loss.

Billy Hamilton Theft Watch:

Hamilton led off the game with a bunt single and immediately stole second before scoring on the home run. He also reached in the ninth on a fielder's choice and was gunning down trying to steal second. He now has 92 steals out of 111 attempts in 72 games.

Dayton lost a shutout in the ninth when Lake County scored two to tie the game at Fifth Third Field. The Captains went on to win 5-2 after they scored three more in the twelfth inning. Juan Perez started the Dragon scoring with a solo home run in the first. On the mound Stalin Gerson threw a gem with six shutout innings allowing only two hits and a walk. Erik Miller was charged with three runs and took the loss.

Billings jumped out to a 9-2 lead and held on to win 9-6 at Great Falls. Brennan May went 4-4 with three extra base hits and two RBI to raise his average to .368 on the young season. Jesse Winker went 3-3 with two walks and is now hitting .357. Sammy Diaz, Spencer Dickinson, Carlos Sanchez, and Gabriel Rosa all added two hits each. Sal Romano allowed two (one earned) on four hits while striking out four in four innings. He's now sitting on a 1.00 ERA after two starts. Jimmy Moran threw 1+ scoreless for the win and Sean Lucas retired the only batter he faced for the save.

The DSL Reds cruised in a home win over the DSL Twins. Ariel Baez went 4-5 and Johathan Suero got two more hits to raise his average to .385. Franderlin Romero got the win in an impressive start by throwing five shutout innings allowing only two hits and no walks while striking out five.

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