Outfielder Tyson Gillies has struggled to stay on the field since he was acquired by the Phillies in the December, 2009 trade that sent Cliff Lee to Seattle. With a series of ailments and setbacks, the lefty batter has not been able to prove himself worthy of the high praise that led to his inclusion in that deal and earned him a spot among the well regarded players in the 2009 MLB All-Star Futures Game.
Growing up in Canada, Gillies played both hockey and baseball. However, in his teenage years, Gillies felt that it was best to choose one sport to focus on and, as determined by his size at the time, he selected baseball. As Gillies progressed as a player, his love and passion for that great game developed along with his talents and he has never looked back.
Gillies began his professional playing career in 2007, as a member of the Arizona League Mariners and later with Everett of the Class A Northwest League. Combined at the two levels that season, Gillies posted a .255 batting average with 11 steals and a .688 OPS in 39 games.
In 2008, Gillies continued to show improvement, spending time with Everett before earning a promotion to Class A Advanced High Desert. In 72 combined games, Gillies batted .302 with 25 stolen bases and an .831 OPS in 72 games.
During a return campaign with High Desert, in 2009, Gillies became a highly regarded prospect, as his offensive output excelled. Gillies posted a .341 batting average, good enough for third highest in the minors, with a Seattle organization leading 44 steals and a .916 OPS in 124 games.
Since the trade that brought him to Philadelphia along with J.C. Ramirez and Phillippe Aumont, Gillies has seemed fragile. Recurring left hamstring issues, a nagging foot injury and a concussion have forced Gillies to miss considerable time in his time with the Phillies, having played just 31 regular season games in his first two seasons with the organization and 106 contests overall. He also dealt with a drug arrest while rehabbing in Florida, although those charges were dropped.
Last year, after getting into a non-physical altercation with the Double-A Reading Phillies' bus driver, Gillies was suspended and missed a couple weeks of action. Despite that issue and missing over six weeks after suffering a concussion during a collision on defense, Gillies played in a season-high 75 games since joining the Phils organization. At three levels, including seven rehab outings with Class A Lakewood and Class A Advanced Clearwater, the youngster posted a .299/.369/.440 line with nine steals in 2012.
Gillies made up for some missed time over the past two off-seasons, sporting fairly weak stats (.178/.302/.233) in 27 games in the Arizona Fall League in 2011, then tallying solid numbers (.294/.357/.373) in the Venezuelan Winter League following Reading's playoff run last year.
A strong line drive hitter that displays some gap power, Gillies is pretty well known for his hearing impairment. Diagnosed at an early age with significant hearing problems, the 6-foot-2-inch 205-pounder grew up using hearing aids and has become accustomed to playing baseball with a slight disadvantage. Gillies is also selective at the plate and is very capable of forcing pitchers to make more pitches and can draw walks.
Defensively, the 24-year-old has outstanding range. Primarily, Gillies has been a center fielder, however he has played all three outfield positions in his professional career. He has also displayed a strong throwing arm and an ability to gun down frisky runners.
The British Columbia native's speed on the bases is evident by his output in the Mariners' system. However, with troublesome "wheels", he has regularly been hobbled and has failed to put that skill on display, having swiped just 11 bases in three years with the Phils organization.
Originally a 25th round draft choice by the M's in 2006, Gillies has great tools and needs to play in order to fully polish all of those abilities.
The coming season will be huge for the talented Gillies. If he can stay healthy, an assignment manning the outfield for Triple-A Lehigh Valley should be on tap. However, if he can't keep himself on the playing field, the Phillies' patience with him may grow thin at a rapid pace.