A graduate of Stone Mountain, GA’s Redan High School, Brandon Phillips was a second-round draft pick by the Montreal Expos in 1999 but never played for the Expos franchise at the big-league level as he was part of a massive 2002 trade that saw him go with Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore and Lee Stevens to Cleveland for future former Braves Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew.
Phillips made his MLB debut for Cleveland on September 13, 2002, in a blow-out win over the Minnesota Twins going 0-for-1 in his debut. He’d pick-up his first major league hit three days later with a fourth inning single off of Frank Castillo of the Boston Red Sox.
He spent most of 2003 as the Indians’ starting second baseman but struggled offensively posting a lowly 48 OPS+ in 393 plate appearances. He’d muster only six games at in the majors in each of 2004 and 2005 with Cleveland before an early April 2006 trade to the Cincinnati Reds changed the trajectory of his career.
With the Reds, Phillips took over as the team’s starting second baseman and would go on to play 11 seasons, winning four Gold Glove Awards, a Silver Slugger and being selected to three National League All-Star teams.
Phillips played in 1,614 games with the Reds amassing 1,774 hits including 311 doubles, 32 triples and 191 home runs. He also stole 194 bases while posting a slash line of .279/.325/.429 good for a near-average 99 OPS+ all while providing the team with plus defense at second.
The best season of his career was likely his 2011 campaign when he hit .300 with a career-best 118 OPS+ and 122 wRC+. Fangraphs gave him 5.4 fWAR while Baseball-Reference credits him with 4.9 bWAR during his second All-Star season.
At the start of Spring Training in 2017, the Reds traded Phillips to the Atlanta Braves in what amounted to a salary dump for two teams in the midst of multiple non-competitive seasons. Other than outgoing Braves reliever Andrew McKirahan, who pitched in 27 games with Atlanta in 2015, no other player in the deal appeared at the MLB-level.
With Atlanta, Phillips made a homecoming and served as a bridge until top prospect Ozzie Albies was ready to take over the position - one Albies continues to man seven seasons later. Taking over for Jace Peterson, who had spent most of the 2016 season as the Braves’ starting second baseman, Phillips was solid in his 120 games with Atlanta. For Phillips, his time in Atlanta was more personally impactful as he saw the culmination of two career achievements while donning a Braves uniform.
The first of his two significant career milestones occurred when Phillips joined the 200/200 club, becoming only the 48th player (at the time) to join the milestone group when he hit his 200th home run off of Garret Cole of the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 22.
In what would be his last game as a Brave, Phillips became the 286th member of the 2,000-hit club when he singled on August 30 in the first inning off of Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Jerad Eickhoff. His landmark hit drove in Ender Inciarte for the first run of a Braves 9-1 win over the Phillies. The Braves traded Phillips of the following day.
Phillips hit .291 with 11 home runs and 27 doubles in 499 plate appearances for the Braves before Atlanta flipped him to the Los Angeles Angels on August 31 for reserve catcher Tony Sanchez, who would go on to have only one plate appearance with Atlanta.
Phillips would finish the 2017 season seeing action in 24 games with the Angels before signing a minor league deal with the Boston Red Sox for the 2018 season. His time as a Red Sox would last only nine games, as he spent most of the season at the minor league level. His September call-up with the Red Sox would mark the end of his big-league playing career.
He would continue to play, sporadically, in Mexico and in U.S. independent baseball for the next five years. That included playing for the Lexington Legends - a team for which he became a co-owner in 2021 - until the team was sold after the 2022 season.
Phillips stayed in-and-around the game in 2023 when he and his wife - former AEW and current WWE wrestler Jade Cargill - became owners of the Texas Smoke, a franchise in the Women’s Professional Fastpitch league.
Known for his outgoing personality, “Dat Dude” ranks 19th in career games played at second base and 23rd in career fielding percentage as a second baseman.
All totaled, Phillips played in 1,909 MLB games, scoring 1,005 runs, 368 doubles, 35 tiples, 211 home runs, driving in 951 and stealing 209 bases. FanGraphs credits whim with 52.2 fielding runs above average for his career and a career 28.9 fWAR. Baseball-Reference credits him with a similar career 28.4 bWAR.
Although he never led his respective league in any offensive categories, he did become a member of baseball’s 30/30 club in 2007 when he high a career-high 30 home runs and stole a career-best 32 bases. He picked up NL MVP votes in both 2007 and 2012.
This is the first year Phillips is on the ballot and will almost certainly be his last as he won’t be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame but was a notable player for more than a decade despite not coming into his own until his age 26 season.