For the second year in a row, the Atlanta Braves used their second-round draft choice on a right-handed pitcher with some medical concerns but plenty of talent. That’s the extent of the similarities between 2022 pick Cole Phillips, and 2021 pick Spencer Schwellenbach. Phillips was a prep arm who had Tommy John Surgery in the spring before the draft; Schwellenbach was a college performer who had his procedure shortly after signing.
Preseason Report Card
As a 2022 draft choice, we did not have a preseason ranking or report on Phillips, considering he was one of many players who only had a chance to be drafted by the Braves. He did, however, start out the spring very strong and was firmly in the mix to be selected in the first round of the draft despite being a right-handed high school arm. Phillips went down with an injury that required Tommy John Surgery, which dropped him down to the Braves in the second round.
What we saw in 2022
We did not see any of Cole Phillips in 2022 given his Tommy John surgery this spring. On a positive note, Phillips posted a video of himself throwing a ball for the first time post-surgery shortly before the end of the regular season. It does appear that early on in the rehab process, everything is where it should be.
This is tough to say, in all honesty. Phillips had surgery early enough this spring and appears to have begun the earliest stages of his rehab process, so we will see probably see him pitch in 2023. That said, he is a high-upside young arm coming off a serious injury, so it also shouldn’t surprise anyone if the Braves are extra careful with how they handle Phillips in 2023. I would expect that we see Phillips pitch in the FCL at some point next season, but right now he still has a long way to go in his rehab process with many milestones yet to reach this early on, so predicting him making it to full-season ball in Augusta is tricky.
It could take until the 2024 season until the Braves finally turn Phillips loose and we get to see why he just might be the highest-upside arm the Braves drafted in their pitcher-heavy 2022 draft class. His high-octane fastball that was hitting the upper 90’s before he was hurt comes in addition to a power slider, so we are anxious to see what those pitches look like once he is done with rehab. Additionally, he will likely have to successfully develop his changeup more to stick as a starter, and given that he didn’t throw it much in high school, seeing its starting point as he begins his pro career will tell us a good bit.