Date of Birth: October 9, 1986 in St. Louis, Missouri
Height/Weight: 6'3", 190 pounds
Position: Starting Pitcher
David Phelps was selected by the Yankees in the 14th round of the 2008 MLB June Amateur Draft. He went undrafted out of high school due to a strong commitment to Notre Dame, despite being ranked the number six prospect in Missouri coming out of high school.
An outstanding sophomore season put him on the radar as a potential high draft choice, but he struggled during his junior year with a 4.65 ERA in 93 innings. After his junior season, he declared for the draft, and Baseball America predicted him to go in the first eight rounds. Despite this, he lasted untilt he 14th round, when the Yankees drafted and signed him to a $150,000 bonus, the most a player drafted outside the 5th round can receive without MLB's approval.
Pro Career: Phelps has been very successful throughout his minor leage career. He has been great at every stop, with his highest ERA never going above 3.10. For his career, he owns a 2.62 ERA, a 1.17 WHIP, a 7.4 K/9, and a very solid 2.0 BB/9.
After his 2010 season, when he went a combined 10-2 with 158.2 innings pitched, a 2.50 ERA, a 1.10 WHIP, an 8.0 K/9 and a 2.0 BB/9 at AA Trenton and AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Phelps was named the Yankees' minor league pitcher of the year. Following the year, he was tabbed by Baseball America as having the "Best Slider" in the Yankees' organization.
Scouting Report: Per Mike Axisa:
Phelps has come a long way since high school. Once a scrawny kid that would sit in the low-90′s on a good day, Phelps has filled out his 6-foot-3 frame (190 lbs.) and now throws his fastball at 93-95 mph consistently. Minor league pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras made some minor adjustments soon after Phelps signed, leading to the improved velocity. He also throws a two-seam fastball right around 90 mph, a good curveball, and both a below average slider and changeup. The curve is the closest thing Phelps has to a strikeout pitch, but it still needs some more improvement. At the moment he’s a ground ball pitcher, but that can change if one of the off-speed pitches takes that step forward.
Although his secondary stuff is good but not great, it all plays up because Phelps has very strong control and pounds the bottom of the zone. His delivery is very simply and easily repeated, which bodes well for future command and health. He’s already demonstrated the ability to be a workhorse, logging no fewer than 151 innings in each of the last three seasons.
I thought it was interesting that Axisa said Phelps' slider is below average, while Baseball America named it the best in the system. Perhaps this is more of a testament to the lack of a true plus slider within the organization. Despite his lack of a true strikeout pitch, Phelps uses five pitches. His strong command and ability to keep the ball down in the zone, along with a 93-95 mph fastball, enables him to strike batters out.
Estimated Time of Arrival: 2011. Phelps is as ready as he's going to be. He's logged the innings, performed well at every stop, and if or when an injury occurs, Phelps could be one of the first called up.
If he does not arrive in 2011, I would expect him to be traded. He is a bit old for AAA (because he spent three years in college) and with age comes the loss of prospect status. He will also eligible for the Rule 5 Draft if the Yankees do not add him to the 40-man roster after the end of the season, so decisions will have to be made about his future with the Yankees.
Overall, Phelps is a quality prospect that should contribute to the major league club or be packaged in a trade, "very, very soon."
Special thanks to Mike Axisa and his full report (link above) in helping me write this prospect profile.