"I think the level of play will be a little bit better this year," Evans said. "Everybody is going to be a little more consistent than last year so it'll be a little more challenging."
The 20-year-old infielder is expected to be a force both in the field and at the plate after getting a hot start in short-season Brooklyn last year, where he hit .252 with five home runs and 31 walks. Sand Gnats manager Luis Rojas said that Evans is growing up fast and that he is poised to have a breakout season in Savannah this year.
"I had him in the Gulf Coast [League] when he was first drafted and he wasn't recognizing his pitches as well as he is now," Rojas said. "That's what caught my attention when I saw him this spring. The repetition and experience have gotten him here."
Evans said that he spent his offseason making adjustments and getting himself into better shape to prepare for the long season ahead.
"I hit the weight room hard this year and gained some good muscle weight, but the main thing I was working on in the offseason was getting faster," he said. "I was working out with some guys in the NFL combine like Landry Jones and a couple of other quarterbacks and lineman.
"They're all big guys that need to stay fast for their sport. That worked out for me. It was fun working out with them and getting after it in the weight room. I was in way better shape in Spring Training this year than I was in the past."
Sand Gnats hitting coach Joel Fuentes said that Evans' hard work in the offseason made a noticeable difference in his performance in Spring Training and that he expects Evans to continue to thrive at the plate this season.
"He's strong," Fuentes said. "He came in to Spring Training in really good shape. He's very mature and he's going to continue to grow up. He's gonna be successful in this league. If he stays healthy, he'll be outstanding all season."
Evans said that his focus in Spring Training this year was becoming more selective about the pitches he takes and developing into a more consistent line-drive hitter.
"I was focusing on getting back into it with my swing, taking ground balls, and staying consistent with everything," he said. "I worked on zoning up my approach a little bit, leaving more balls alone, and sitting on my pitch to hit. Last year I was free swinging quite a bit and now my zone's a little tighter. I improved my pitch selection and my defense is pretty solid."
Rojas said that he's impressed with how Evans has developed as a hitter and that he is looking for Evans to be a punishing force in the Sand Gnats' lineup this season.
"Seeing him right now I think his strengths are going to be line drives," Rojas said. "He's gonna get extra base hits. Early on we'll have him hitting in the bottom part of the lineup to add some depth, but as the season moves along I think we'll move him up to one of the top three spots in the lineup."
Fuentes said that he wants Evans to continue to focus on becoming a solid line-drive hitter and not to worry about hitting for power.
"For young guys like him, I don't expect a lot of power. If the power comes, I want it to come naturally. For now I just want him to keep hitting line drives to hopefully get some doubles, triples, and RBI's. He just needs to keep learning to hit the ball well."
Rojas agreed that Evans does not need to worry about hitting for power at this point in his career and said that the home runs will come in spots if he continues to develop as an all-around hitter.
"The homeruns are going to come, but I don't see him hitting a lot of them," Rojas added. "If he does hit them, we'll take them, but he's gonna be a guy that hits the ball in the gaps and drive the ball all over the field. The power will come. You have to be a good hitter first, and then you become a power hitter."
Perhaps the greatest challenge that Evans will face this season is adjusting to the demands of playing a 140-game schedule. Evans said that he is ready to accept the challenge and enjoy his first full minor league season with the Sand Gnats.
"I think the main thing this year is just to get used to the grind of the long season," Evans said. "We'll see how I do, how the team will do and see how we hold up in the long season. I just want to have fun with it."
SAVANNAH, GA - Expectations are high for Savannah shortstop Phillip Evans this season. The Mets' 15th round pick in the 2011 draft is set to begin his first taste of the long-season league level in the minor leagues and is expected to anchor a young, but talented, Sand Gnats defense.
Evans Set To Thrive In Single-A
Phillip Evans seems poised to have a breakout season of sorts in Savannah this year.
Savannah Beat Writer
Evans is making the move up from Brooklyn
Apr 7, 2013