Phillip Sikes was drafted in the 18th round of the 2021 MLB Draft by the Red Sox after a phenomenal junior season at TCU. The outfielder could have risen his draft stock and gone back for another year to finish his education, but instead chose to sign with Boston and start his professional baseball career.
“I definitely could have went back and I know I could have gotten drafted higher, that’s not a question,” Sikes told Boston Sports Wave. “But as far as the signing bonus and that stuff goes, I definitely would have not gotten as much.”
Sikes, 22, notes that if he went back for a year his signing bonus would not have been as much. Considering 23 years of age is fairly old on the scale of MLB draft prospects, Sikes’ signing bonus of $97,500 would most likely not have been as much if he returned for a senior season.
Out of high school, the 6-foot-2 outfielder went to New Mexico as both a right-handed pitcher and an outfielder. He was solid in his rookie year, hitting .246 (31-for-126) with a .642 OPS through 50 games as a freshman, to go along with one homer, four doubles, seven RBI, eight walks, and two stolen bases.
He wasn’t very successful on the mound in his freshman year though, as he allowed eight runs on eleven hits through just 3.1 innings (four outings), picking up just three strikeouts while batters registered a .550 batting average off of him.
“Played a bunch my freshman year (at New Mexico) and had a lot of fun — it was a good school,” Sikes said. “Ended up transferring after that year just because of some coaching changes and stuff like that. I ended up following one of the coaches that left New Mexico to Pima, a Junior College in Tucson, Arizona. Followed him there, played a year there, and then transferred to TCU.”
At Pima, Sikes shined as a sophomore. According to the school’s website, the right-handed bat hit .349 (66-for-179) through 53 games tallying seven homers, 39 RBI, 12 doubles, six triples, 20 walks, 16 stolen bases, and an OPS of 1.075 with the Aztecs.
The righty was also a major improvement on the mound, going 2-1 with four saves through 10 relief appearances. He allowed five runs on nine hits through 9 1/3 innings, but only one run was earned giving him a 0.96 ERA.
The sophomore campaign at the JuCo level was enough to earn himself both a junior college All-American and a a spot on the Horned Frogs, as Sikes joined the Big 12 powerhouse, TCU, for the 2020 season.
“I chose TCU just because it was pretty close to home (Paris, Texas) to me, and then growing up TCU was kind of the powerhouse, said Sikes. “It was kind of my dream school. It was a good opportunity for me, and I knew I could develop as a player there with the coaches and with that program.”
Entering the 2020 season though, COVID-19 was only getting worse. Just weeks into the season, the season was cancelled due to the virus. Sikes went just 8-for-48 (.167) with just one double, five RBI, a .486 OPS and no homers through 15 games.
“We had a really good team — really old guys and veteran guys,” Sikes said. “Started off the season really good, our last game was actually against Vanderbilt — we lost on a walk off. It was pretty crazy. We saw stuff happening with other sports and stuff like that, but we didn’t really expect it to happen to us to be honest.”
Sikes recalled the time when they figured out that their season was being cancelled.
“We were just practicing one day and (the coaches) got a call,” Sikes recalled. They said they got a call from the Big 12 saying that they’re cancelling. We figured out that they cancelled the World Series first, and then they ended up cancelling the whole season.”
With COVID, many players found it difficult to train with limited equipment and needs at home. Luckily for Sikes, he found a way to train.
“That was kind of a difficult part, just because of all the protocols and stuff like that with COVID,” Sikes explained. “You just kind of had to train. Luckily for me, I had some friends that had some batting cages, and I was able to kind of work out and do all of my stuff there.”
Although he was entering his fourth year of college, it would be Sikes’ junior year. He would take advantage of his extra year of eligibility because of COVID, and be a junior instead of a senior for the 2021 season.
The 22-year-old outfielder would shine, hitting .329 (70-for-213) with a 1.047 OPS, socking 11 homers, 19 doubles, five triples, to go along with 63 RBI, 26 walks, and 13 stolen bases through 58 games.
“I would say (having a great season) is more kind of just maturing as a hitter and developing,” Sikes said. “I mean.. that and just getting comfortable and just gaining confidence over time. That and then just the mental side of things — just knowing how to handle certain situations, and just knowing how to handle the highs and lows.”
But, Sikes gave up pitching after a short while at TCU.
“I used to be probably a better pitcher than I was hitter,” Sikes explained. “I pitched at New Mexico a little bit, I was a closer at JuCo, I went and played in the Northwoods league in the summer and I pitched there — had like 30 innings or so and ended up going to the All-Star game as a pitcher.
“I went to TCU as a two-way player, but it just became a lot,” he continued. “Because of throwing, throwing bullpens, and throwing in the outfield.”
Sikes led TCU to a 41-19 record, belting a crucial homer in the Big 12 championship to lead the Horned Frogs to the title, but were eliminated by Oregon State after just three games in the College World Series.
The outfielder also explained why he stole a lot more bases at TCU (16), than he did at New Mexico (2).
“A lot of that has to do with the different type of culture and programs that TCU and New Mexico are,” he said. “TCU focused on a bunch of aspects, but mainly base running. Base running was huge for us — we always worked on base running. The way we base ran, allowed for us to steal a lot of bases.
“We did a thing where we would time the pitcher, so the pitchers would have like, however long they held in their set, we kind of timed that, and almost got like a run into our steal,” he went on to say. “So we started gathering up into our steal and kind of timing it. But just doing that, and doing it that you can do it and still get back to first (base), and reading dirt balls, and all that type of stuff.”
His strong season was enough to earn him an 18th-round selection, as he explained the draft process.
“I had a feeling I was gonna get picked, I just didn’t know when,” the speedster explained. “The draft is a pretty crazy process, so you’re not really sure what’s gonna happen.
“At the time, I was working at a TCU baseball camp,” Sikes continued, “and I got the call from my agent saying, ‘The Boston Red Sox want to take (you) in the 18th round, would (you) take it?’ And I was like, ‘Of course.'”
A few days later, the outfielder signed his first contract with the Red Sox, with a signing bonus of $97,500.
“(I signed) a few days later,” said Sikes. “It was just kind of getting all the paperwork and stuff together and then they sent some stuff over on like a DocuSign, and within a few days, I had to fly out and start to get over here at Fort Myers and start rolling.”
The outfielder compares himself to longtime Washington Nationals shortstop, and now Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner.
“As far as just like, player-wise, I would say I’m kind of a lot like Trea Turner, just in the outfield,” Sikes replied when asked who he compares himself to. “Just because he’s fast, kind of the same body type, he gets hits and homers but he’s mainly gap-to-gap.”
Sikes and Turner do have quite a similar body. Both speedsters are 6-foot-2, while Turner weighs 185 pounds, and Sikes is registered at 190 pounds.
Since his signing, the right-handed bat has joined fourth overall pick Marcelo Mayer (No. 9 prospect in baseball now, according to MLB.com) and the Red Sox’s Florida Complex League Team down in Fort Myers, Florida, at the Spring Training Facility. There, he’s made a real name for himself, going 8-for-18 (.444) with three doubles, one walk, one HBP, and four RBI.
“We try not to put too much stock in small samples of performance, especially in a player’s first year with a mid-July draft, but are happy with the debuts of many guys, including (Sikes),” Red Sox vice president of Baseball Operations Ben Crockett told Brendan Campbell of BloggingtheRedSox.com.