Apr. 14, 2012; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher David Phelps (41) pitches during the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE
There's finally been a change in the starting rotation, saving us from another dreadful Freddy Garcia start. That change comes in the form of David Phelps, an under-the-radar right-hander who's excelled throughout the minors. If you're a hardcore Yankee fan, you probably already know everything you need to about the newest member of the rotation. But if you're not, I'm going to give you a rundown.
He's 25 years old and only now getting his first shot at being a major league starter, partly because the Yankees, in general, have prospectophobia, and the scouts have never drooled over him the way they did with pitchers like Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain. He doesn't throw in the mid to high 90s, doesn't have gawdy strikeout numbers, and doesn't have a rich pedigree. Phelps lasted until the 14th round of the 2008 draft, having graduated from Notre Dame.
He had a very solid first (half) season in Staten Island (73 IP, 2.72 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 52 K, 18 BB). 2009 went even better, as he split the season between Charleston and Tampa. 2010 went similarly, as Phelps progressed to Trenton and Scranton. He was set back somewhat in 2011 due to an injury, causing him to throw only 114 IP; if not for that, we may have seen Phelps as early as last season.
The attribute that jumps out is his consistency. His ERA's been between 2.38 and 2.99 every season, while his WHIP has remained between 1.10 and 1.28; his K/9 between 6.4 and 8.0, and his BB/9 between 1.8 and 2.2.
Phelps features a five-pitch arsenal: a low 90s fastball, a wicked two-seamer (that has more movement than Hiroki Kuroda's), a curveball, slider and changeup. His strength is that he can throw them all for strikes.
What concerns me is his BABIP, an unsustainably low .178. It's made for a 5.66 FIP. On the other hand, his xFIP is a perfectly respectable 4.09, due to a ridiculous 17% HR/FB rate (compared to an 8% MLB average).
Hopefully he'll continue in the tradition of dark horse prospects excelling where their higher-ranked teammates failed (e.g. Robinson Cano, Ivan Nova, Chien-Ming Wang, Brett Gardner, David Robertson).
Phelps will make his first big league start on Thursday night in Kansas City. Stay tuned.