Phillip Evans won the batting title on the final day of the Eastern League season in 2016 with a 4 for 6 game that capped an incredible breakout year.
The 24-year old had a career season in 2016 hitting .335/.374/.485 in 96 games for the Double-A Binghamton Mets. He also set career highs in doubles (30), home runs (8), runs scored (53), RBI (41) and OPS (.826).
The right-handed hitting infielder played shortstop (39 games), second base (34) and third base (27) during the past season. The Mets drafted him as a shortstop in the 15th round of the 2011 out of high school.
Evans went to the Puerto Rican Winter League to continue working on his game and did the same thing he did during the regular season with the bat. In 19 winter ball games, Evans hit .311/.386/.446 and walked seven times compared to eight strikeouts.
MMN – Thanks for taking timing to answer my questions and congrats on a great season including the batting title. Let’s start with winter ball since you’re playing right now. How did it come about to play for the Criollos de Caguas? And what was your motivation for doing so?
Phillip – Thank you I appreciate that, it was a very fun season. I actually got the job talking to Joey Cora near the end of our season while he was managing for the Altoona Curve. I asked him if he had any connections with winter ball and he gave his brother Alex Cora a call and asked if they had a spot for me. He called me the next morning and asked if I wanted to play. I was excited to get my foot in the door in winter ball and get some more at bats and stay in baseball shape so I will be ready to go once spring training comes around.
MMN – What was it like playing in Puerto Rico? What level would you say the competition is?
Phillip – It’s a great league, a lot of high level minor league and a few major league guys come down here too stay in shape. I don’t think I can compare it to any exact level but the competition is very tough, great pitchers, great hitters and the intensity of every game is off the charts. It has Playoff atmosphere every game.
MMN – What did you learned from the experience and the coaching staff?
Phillip – Being able to play in a must win atmosphere, and adjusting to the different ways of thinking and approach of the game. Pitching, defense, pace of play, situations etc.
MMN – You had struggled in your minor league career before 2016, what changed for you that made this year so successful?
Phillip – Every player is always developing in this game in some way, mentally or physically. Eventually something just clicks, I don’t think anyone can explain what that “something” is or put a time,date,or place of when that will be, but it clicked for me this year. It just happened to be later in my career.
MMN – What did it feel like to have that breakout year personally?
Phillip – It was an incredible feeling! Playing hard every single game is what I do, Defensively and offensively. It was very rewarding seeing the production that came out of all the ups and downs through the years.
MMN – When did you know you had a chance at the batting title?
Phillip – I’m not exactly sure when I found out I had a chance at it. I just wanted to continue to build off the strong season that I was having, help the team win some more ball games and have some fun.
MMN – You played all over the infield this year, is there a position your more comfortable at and how many gloves do you bring with you?
Phillip – I have been a short stop my entire life, so that’s the most natural. All the other positions have been an easier transition because of that. I bring 3 gloves with me wherever I go.
MMN – Can you talk a little bit about how it is as an infielder to have a defensive whiz at first like Dominic Smith?
Phillip – It’s absolutely amazing! I’m pretty sure the entire infield owes him a few steak dinners. He works hard, but makes it look easy over there. A future multi gold glove award winner and a great all around guy. I’m sure anyone who has played with him or against him will say the same. Love having him on my team.
MMN – What is your approach like at the plate? I’ve noticed that you’ve been walking more in winter ball, is that something you’re working on?
Phillip – My approach is the same as it has always been, aggressive on pitches that I want to hit and do damage with. I have been a little bit more selective during my time in winter ball.
MMN – Last question, what do you think you need to work on this offseason to take the next step in your development towards the ultimate goal of being a major leaguer?
Phillip – I’m going to get stronger, faster, and as lean as possible. Working on my first step and quickness, so I will be able to play at the highest level at any position.
MMN – Thanks again for answering all my questions. Good luck next season.