I loved Andy Phillips and his presence on the team made me start to wonder why the Yankees never let their prospects play. Obviously, I wasn't aware that Phillips wasn't very good, but the prospect question stayed in my mind.
He put up pretty decent numbers throughout his minor league career, even though he was considered to be old at each level. He kept his OBP in the mid-to-high .300s, and while he spent parts of three seasons at Triple-A, he did win several meaningless awards, like the Yankee MVP award for leading the system in batting average and RBIs (and second in home runs), the International League All-Star Game MVP award, and the James P. Dawson Award for being a really good rookie in Spring Training.
He was a September-call up in 2004 and hit his first home run over the Green Monster while pinch hitting for Alex Rodriguez. This event probably sums up Phillips' career rather nicely. Always ready to play, but something else always said no. He joined a list of Yankees to homer in their first at bat with the team: Marcus Thames, Bubba Crosby, Todd Zeile, Wilson Betemit, Cody Ransom, and Curtis Granderson to name a few. For me, Andy Phillips doesn't belong in that group (neither does Curtis) because he was my first real glimpse at a 'prospect,' even if he really wasn't much of one.
What people remember him for is that he became the regular first baseman in 2006, after both Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield were injured and he actually led the team in batting average for the first half of the season. It was his most successful yea,r and he wasn't even a league average player. Still, he had a role to play.
Then his mother was in a car accident in 2007, and he spent time away from the team and ultimately lost a spot on the Opening Day roster. He eventually became the first baseman again when both Giambi and Doug Mientkiewicz went down. It was his time again. Then he was hit by a pitch from a young Jason Hammel in September, broke his hand, and that was that.
He rejected an assignment and then had a weird 2008. He signed with the Reds and appeared in only a handful of games, he was claimed by the Mets, who only played him for four games before he was DFA'd to make room for Tony Armas, a veteran at the fringes of his career, and finaly claimed back by the Reds. He then signed with the Pirates and almost made the 2009 Opening Day roster, but then he hurt his back and stayed in Triple-A all season. For want of a nail. He was traded to the White Sox in 2009 and then left to pursue a career in Japan.
He played for the Hiroshima Tokyo Carp and the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2010, and after that his playing career was over. He became an assistant coach at the University of Alabama, his Alma Mater, where he still works today. Maybe one day something will work out in his favor and he'll be first string.
Fun Fact: The man he was traded for in 2009, Michael Dubee, a career minor league pitcher, actually made it to the Yankees organization in 2012 and is now on Toronto's Double-A team. At 26 he's old for the level, but he's not showing any of the potential that Phillips did. Not everyone can own a legacy as a Quadruple-A player.