David Phelps & Spring Training Buzz

Open Thread: 3/14 Camp Notes
Report: No expanded instant replay in 2012
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The pitching staff has been the focus of Spring Training so far and rightfully so. The Yankees made two big name pickups this offseason and those players have been under the microscope (though the Michael Pineda coverage has gone from intense to flat out absurd), plus Phil Hughes has some serious questions to answer after his disastrous 2011 campaign. Mariano Rivera didn’t help matters by hinting at retirement his first day in Tampa, and neither did David Robertson‘s foot injury.

While all that has been going on, the team’s minor league pitching depth has been quietly plugging along and getting outs. The quartet of Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, Brett Marshall, and D.J. Mitchell had not allowed a single run this spring (combined 19.2 IP) until Banuelos got knocked around yesterday, but it’s another minor league hurler that has apparently piqued some interest. Courtesy of Joel Sherman

One Yankees player getting some buzz among scouts is David Phelps, who on Tuesday night against Boston continued his good vibrations by striking out five of the 10 Red Sox he has faced.

Both the Yankees and a few scouts noted to me that Phelps has ticked his fastball up to the 92-93 mph range. And a particularly impressed scout said that has raised his profile because the righty already had good aptitude and competitiveness on the mound.

Phelps, 25, has allowed one unearned run in seven innings this spring, striking out seven. He ranked 12th on my list of the team’s top 30 prospects thanks to his four-pitch mix and MLB readiness, though I’m not entirely sure what the big deal is with his fastball getting up to 92-93. Baseball America had him throwing 92-95 mph way back in their 2010 Prospect Handbook, though I suppose they could have been wrong. Maybe he lost a little velocity following the shoulder tendinitis that shelved him for close to two months last summer. Who knows, but whatever is going on, people around the game are starting to take notice.

The Yankees added Phelps to the 40-man roster this past offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, though they were prepared to call him up for a spot start in mid-June before the Brian Gordon signing. I’m not entirely sure who the Yankees would call up first for a such a start at the moment, I go back and forth between Phelps and Mitchell depending on the day. Adam Warren is in that mix as well, but he’s at the disadvantage of not being on the 40-man. In reality, a call-up will have just as much to do with the schedule as it does performance. Whoever’s lined up to pitch that day will be the frontrunner.

It’s nice to hear that Phelps is generating some buzz during a time when most reporting focuses on what a player is not rather than what he is, but we’ve known about him for a while now. The Yankees could use him (and others) in a variety of ways — starter, reliever, trade bait — so they have a pretty nice core of minor league pitching depth. The best case scenario calls for us to see none of these guys in 2012, but that’s next to impossible. The more attention these guys get, the better.

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Open Thread: 3/14 Camp Notes
Report: No expanded instant replay in 2012
  • Red Stag

    He sounds like a smaller but more complete version of Phil Hughes… This guy will wind up a # 2 or 3 on another team just like Kennedy and Noesi, and Hughes will stink up the joint… as usual.

    • Brian

      Your already calling Noesi a solid 2 or 3 starter that’s absurd. He was trade fodder, there was a reason Nova was in the rotation and not Noesi. We gave all seen amazing springs and then they dwindle in the coming season.

    • Mike HC

      Kennedy is pretty clearly a 1. And agreed that Hughes has some pressure to step the f up this year considering the faith the Yanks put in him over other options they had in the organization that are now gone.

      Once the guys are gone though, they are gone. And having our pitching prospects thrive on other teams will only make our future pitching prospects that much more valuable.

      • Havok9120

        Kennedy is a 1 in one of (the) weakest offensive divisions in baseball. A division in which he doesn’t have to play the best team. So while he IS, technically, a 1 lets not get carried away. By the same token, could he have come into his own? Yes. I just don’t think its likely to this extent (or anywhere near it).

        I’m sorry if I misread your comment and attributed more Kennedy love to you then you have.

      • Jay

        Let’s see. Hughes has one good year and a bad one after an injury, and he will “stink up the place.” But Kennedy, after one good year is clearly a 1. Maybe we should wait one more year before we make any definite statements.

  • Gonzo

    If I’m the Astros or some other crappy team, I’m targeting Phelps and Warren hard.

    They could get starts in the majors and prove to be useful to a rebuilding team.

    • All Praise Be To Mo

      Yea they could, but what do the Astros have to trade us in return that we would want? That team has nothing, don’t think I’ve ever seen a team where there’s no one in the entire organization I would want.

      • Gonzo

        I said I would be targeting them hard. I never said the Yankees would be interested with anything they have in return. However, I am sure other teams that are in a similar situation like the Astros have something you would be interested in return.

  • A.D.

    Nice to see AAA guys pushing themselves to the cusp of a big league rotation spot, and getting the attention which hopefully raises their trade stock

  • JD

    Phelps started off like a bal of fire last year too. I think Nardi, who refers to him as Phelpsy, called him the most polished and MLB ready in an interview last April or May. Then the wheels came off with the shoulder. He always strikes me as a Kennedy type — maybe with a little more heat and a little less control. He is a very nice piece to have, but optimal trade value is approaching if the Yanks are not going to put him in.

    • Mike HC

      “He always strikes me as a Kennedy type”

      A pasty white guy?

      • Havok9120

        Buh dum pishhhhh

  • Paul VuvuZuvella

    If this buzz on Phelps continues over the next couple of weeks, I would be cool with Selling High and getting that AAA outfielder who could join Almonte as a possible cheaper option than Swish in 2013. Maybe he is part of a two player package for that Outfielder. Not putting specific names out there because “my trade proposal would suck”, but it’s the sell high concept here that I would endorse.

    Didn’t somebody rate the Yanks system 17th recently due to a lack of upper level depth? Seems pretty deep to me.

    • jjyank

      Yeah, one of the farm ranking list had us lower than I expected. I don’t buy it though. Not to sound like a homer, but the Yanks’ system seem to have a nice combination of low-level talent and upper level depth. Sure, outside of Manny (or Betances, if you don’t think he’ll wind up as a reliever) we don’t have a blue chip prospect in the upper levels. But having guys like Phelps, Warren, and Mitchell is important too. I don’t think either of those 3 will be a star, but I do believe any of them could become serviceable #3-#5 guys on a big league staff. Our AAA rotation is underrated by some prospect lists I think.

  • Mike HC

    Considering Garcia, Kuroda, Joba, Hughes, Soriano and Mo are all on 2 year commitments or shorter, these AAA arms are likely to pretty major parts of our team in the very near future. And any injuries with just accelerate that process.

    • jjyank

      Especially with the desire to get under $189 mil. Replacing Kuroda’s $10 mil and/or Garcia’s $4 mil with the league minimum will be important. Hopefully at least one of those guys can step up. I think a lot of that is on Pineda too. If he develops into a legit #2, then the pressure for the AAA arms will be lesser for them as a back-end starter.

      • Mike HC

        True. Not only Pineda though, but Nova and Hughes too. If between the 3 of them, or even 2 of 3, they prove to the Yanks they are reliable, championship caliber pitchers, then all the more these AAA arms will get their shot as back of the rotation guys and long men and even bullpen arms.

      • Havok9120

        RE: Pineda

        Not only that, but if he does it lets us remain safely out of the bidding for Hamels/Cain/Greinkie. Which is a very, very big consideration when it comes to having money to resign our own free agents.

    • Steve (different one)

      Agreed. There will be opportunities for these guys. Maybe not this year, but 2013-2014. Garcia, Kuroda, and even Hughes could be gone.

  • http://twitter.com/_swarlesbarkely Drew

    Always been a Phelps guy, nice to see he’s getting a little media attention. Hopefully he can either be a nice back of the rotation guy or a main piece to land the Yankees some oitfielding depth or a DH at the deadline.

    • Mike HC

      I don’t see us trading our pitching depth for a corner outfielder any time soon considering how many of them there are on the free agent market for a range of different prices every year.

      Plus, our pitching depth is soon going to be needed on the MLB team.

      • http://twitter.com/_swarlesbarkely Drew

        Justin Maxwell isn’t going to cut it for depth. You have Banuelos, Betances, Warren and Mitchell, all capable of filling in this season or starting next season in rotation. And what outfielders are you talking about?

        • Mike HC

          Like who?

          Left fielders
          Jack Cust (34) – $1MM club option
          Jay Gibbons (36)
          Jonny Gomes (32)
          Scott Hairston (33)
          Josh Hamilton (32)
          Willie Harris (35)
          Eric Hinske (35)
          Conor Jackson (31)
          Reed Johnson (36)
          Andruw Jones (36)
          Austin Kearns (33)
          Mark Kotsay (37)
          Carlos Lee (37)
          Ryan Ludwick (34) – mutual option for 2013
          Juan Pierre (35)
          Juan Rivera (34) – $4MM club option for 2013 with a $500K buyout
          Delmon Young (27)

          Center fielders
          Alfredo Amezaga (35)
          Rick Ankiel (33)
          Michael Bourn (30)
          Marlon Byrd (35)
          Melky Cabrera (28)
          Mike Cameron (40)
          Curtis Granderson (32) – $13MM club option with a $2MM buyout
          Scott Hairston (33)
          Angel Pagan (31)
          Corey Patterson (33)
          Cody Ross (32)
          Aaron Rowand (35)
          Grady Sizemore (30)
          Ryan Spilborghs (33)
          B.J. Upton (28)
          Shane Victorino (32)

          Right fielders
          Lance Berkman (36)
          Matt Diaz (35)
          Andre Ethier (31)
          Kosuke Fukudome (36) – $3.5MM club option with a $500K buyout
          Willie Harris (35)
          Brad Hawpe (34)
          Torii Hunter (37)
          Andruw Jones (36)
          Mark Kotsay (37)
          Ryan Ludwick (34) – mutual option for 2013
          Carlos Quentin (30)
          Juan Rivera (34) – $4MM club option for 2013 with a $500K buyout
          Cody Ross (32)
          Ryan Spilborghs (33)
          Ichiro Suzuki (39)
          Nick Swisher (32)

          Designated hitters
          Bobby Abreu (39)
          Edwin Encarnacion (30)
          Travis Hafner (36) – $13MM club option with a $2.75MM buyout
          Raul Ibanez (41)
          David Ortiz (38)
          Manny Ramirez (41)
          Luke Scott (35) – $6MM club option with a $1MM buyout
          Jim Thome (42)

          • jjyank

            That list is a bit deceiving though. It looks long, but how many of those players do we actually want to sign? Seems like the most appealing names are guys that are already Yankees right now. Maybe Upton and Victorino, but most of that list is comprised of players that I would want no part of. Actually, seeing that whole list just makes the idea of selling high on a AAA arm to get a young outfielder even more appealing to me.

            • Mike HC

              Fair enough. But I feel the opposite. I don’t believe that you just throw out veterans once they hit a certain age. I think there is great value in some of those older or injury prone guys and signing a couple of them to play RF is a better idea than giving up legitimate, good major league pitching, which is what Phelps is shaping up to look like.

              • jjyank

                Well I don’t advocate throwing Phelps away in just any trade. For example, I wouldn’t deal Phelps in a trade of the McAllister for Kearns trade a couple years ago. But if Phelps can be packaged to get a legitimate young, talented, and controllable OF option, I support it.

                As for the Vets on that list, I’m not saying you throw them out because they hit a certain age. As Yankee fans, we’re well aware that aging players can still provide value. I am saying, that if a younger, better option is available via trade, Phelps could be packaged in the deal if his value is at a peak.

                • Mike HC

                  I guess when you are arguing hypothetical trades, it all depends on what you get back. Obviously I would trade Phelps for Bryce Harper.

                  Assuming he is not part of some bigger deal to get one of the top prospects in the game, and the trade would be for a Nady type or a middle ceiling cost controlled outfielder, I wouldn’t give Phelps up.

                  • jjyank

                    What about a Dom Brown type? Big upside, relatively low value?

                    • Mike HC

                      Depends on what Cashman thinks about him. I honestly don’t really know much about Dom Brown. I hear his name a lot as a top prospect, but it seems he has struggled and is quickly starting to enter Hughes like territory. Phillies might not want to sell low on him anyway, so he might not be available.

                      But solid hypo trade.

                    • jjyank

                      True enough. I don’t know a whole lot about him either besides his prospect status. From what I understand, Philly has misused him a bit and hasn’t given him a legitimate opportunity. A change of scenery and a opportunity to DH/play some outfield this year and play RF full time in 2013 might be what he needs.

                      I could get on board with a trade like that, but I agree that for a Nady/Kearns type player, you hold on to Phelps.

                    • http://twitter.com/_swarlesbarkley Drew

                      That is someone who I had in mind. when i said that. I wasn’t talking about trading Phelps for any outfielder, as said before, a talented cost controlled outfielder. I should have been more clear.

        • Steve (different one)

          Except the Yankees have Andruw Jones and Chris Dickerson. If a starter gets hurt, Andruw can start and Dickerson is your 4th OFer. They could manage that. If you are saying they would be in trouble of they lost 2 starting OFers, you just described every team in baseball. Cole Garner provides some depth ad well.

          • CJ

            Chris Dickerson was a free option as a 4th OF on waivers for every ML team including the Astros, they all passed. If Dickerson is playing for the Yanks for more than 2 weeks, they are in trouble.

            • Havok9120

              He’s not great, but I think you may be underselling him. Good OBP base stealing machines that have (marginally) more than a noodle bat and solid to very good defense have more value than that. He’s a poor man’s version of Brett Gardner.

              While I’m almost always on the “the league knows more than we, or any one team, do,” bandwagon, this time I’ve got to say that some people in need of OF depth dropped the ball.

  • jsbrendog

    so is it possible for him to slide into kuroda’s spot next year? what is his possible ceiling? Imean, austerity budget looks a lot more plausible with guys getting paid nova, pineda, phelps money behind cc.

    or as someone stated above if you can get a young cost controlled otufielder for him…i dont know, comes down to what would you rather pay for, pitching or fielders…

    • jjyank

      Having Pineda under control for 5 years (and cheaply for much of it) helps with that. Selling high on Phelps wouldn’t be a bad idea. If he’s having a good year by July, he could be in a package to get a young outfielder who can DH/take over for Swish next year.

    • Havok9120

      One of them will probably slot in as a 4 or 5 next season. If Hughes busts, then we might even try two of them. Part of that will depend on the progress of the B’s.

  • http://yankeeanalysts.com Matt Imbrogno

    I get the idea of trading from a position of strength, but I don’t think Phelps has enough upside to fetch anything terribly useful back in a trade. He’s likely worth more to the Yankees as pitching depth than as a trade piece.

    • jjyank

      This is likely true. I don’t think anyone believes Phelps can headline a package, but he’d be a pretty useful secondary piece in a trade I think.

      • http://yankeeanalysts.com Matt Imbrogno

        But what headlines that package?

  • STONE COLD Austin Romine

    D.J Mitchell has pitched to better stats this spring.

    He might not have a high ceiling but his floor is stable enough (high) for him to not be an afterthought as a trade piece or remain effective for the org.

  • The Guns of Navarone

    I was very impressed with Phelps the other day. He looked like a power pitching prospect at first before I realized who he was, with a fastball at 93, 94 and a good looking curveball. That cutter he threw also looked really nasty.

    The pitching depth is great for this team and I’m excited to see what he can do. These young guys are going to have to play a big role for this team in the next few years.

  • vin

    I can just picture David Phelps talking up that “Phelps kid” around the watercooler, a la Tobia Funke…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPuqj7bCHdE

  • your mom

    Let’s trade Phelps for Domonic Brown straight up. That way the Phils can have their quartet of aces again. Win-win situation. . . . . . .

    • jjyank

      Like I said above, I would be on board for a trade like this. But I doubt Philly makes that trade straight up, despite how low they seem to be on him.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    What a great problem to have. I hope Phelps keeps on knocking that door down and seizes the opportunity. There’s a rotation spot open next year, and he can be every bit a part of that competition next year as the guys we think are being groomed for it.

  • Monterowasdinero

    I’ve watched Phelps and Mitchell closely last year and this and, while I like them both, Phelps is the guy who seems more ready to me. His fb is a few mph more than DJ’s and his mechanics look smooth and effortless. His fb was hitting the target in/out, up/down and he can paint the black with his curve and slider. The run he gave up to Boston was on a good inside fb that was “fisted” to right and Almonte butchered it-should have been a lucky dink single. Phelps also was called for a balk on what looked like a lightning quick pickoff move.

    Keep him-he could be IPK 2.

  • bg90027

    It is so easy to develop an opinion on a guy from a little information that we read either positive or negative. A lot of people here seem to have always been pretty high on Phelps. I had assumed he was likely a AAAA pitcher who might give us a few spot starts but would never be good enough to be a full-time starter on a good team in the majors. He’s not very young anymore so the “knows how to pitch” comments didn’t seem as impressive as when you hear them used to describe Banuelos. While it wasn’t widely reported, I vaguely can recall reading somewhere last fall from a scout or sportswriter that he wasn’t a lock to be added to the 40 man and that the Yankees were watching him closely in the AZ fall league trying to decide whether to add him or not. Between his shoulder injury and those reports, I could see how his stock might not have been high and a strong spring is creating new buzz for him. I for one have been impressed and think I was probably judging him too harshly. Given how few prospects reach their ceilings, it can be easy to dismiss the more glowing reports and be quicker to believe the pessimistic ones.

    It’s great to see so many kids (Mitchell, Phelps, Banuelos, Betances, Almonte) doing well. I was also pleased to find that Frankie Piliere recently rated Banuelos, Betances and Sanchez the 9th, 28th and 50th best prospects respectively. I think that’s as high as I’ve seen Banuelos and Betances ranked this year.

  • Samuel

    Why would the Yankees trade a guy who has had a sub-3.00 ERA each season since turning pro? That is what Phelps has done since getting drafted. Any other team BUT the Yankees and Phelps likely already has a major league season under his belt.

    His results have always been great, but no one seems to care about results anymore, as it is all about “upside” and “potential.”

    Do you really think that Banuelos, Betances and Mitchell are all going to be great Yankee starting pitchers? You can include Warren, too, in that mix.

    Look down the road a bit.

    Kuroda is a one and done, Garcia is likely one more year only and no matter how he does the next two seasons, Phil is probably gone after he reaches free agency.

    That leaves CC, Pineda and Nova (is everybody still behind him 100%) after 2013. While I think Manny, Mitchell and Warren are good enough to start in the majors, not all will reach their potential and get a long leash from Girardi. Phelps is better than all of them.

    Banuelos is a lock for a future rotation spot while Betances has major issues to overcome before I would give him the ball every five days.

    I have seen Mitchell throw about a dozen times (Tampa, Trenton and Scranton) and it is good that he is getting his due, but he has not shown over the course of a season that he can consistently throw strikes.

    Warren is very good, but overall Phelps is the best starting pitcher prospect the Yankees have in their system. Control, command, multiple pitches and a good thought process. He is a Mike Mussina clone.

    I actually thought Phelps’ location was somewhat off the other night, not his usual near perfect self. Left a few pitches up which major league hitters would have done something different.

    It’s funny how the bloggers and fans get a image of a prospect and that image sticks for his career. So and so can’t do this or he is only a back end starter that. Crap like that. Guys improve themselves year to year with new pitches, better conditioning or changing hitting approaches.

    I suggest you guys go and see these guys play and then formulate your own opinions, and don’t just believe what every Keith Law or Frankie P says about a guy.

    Remember that Law thought Travis Snider (Blue Jays) was going to be a star.

    The Yankees are not getting Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, King Felix or Clayton Kershaw over the next few years, so they are going to need at least two of the minor league kids to perform in the rotation over the next several seasons. Phelps is the surest thing of the bunch.

    So why trade him?

    By the way, everyone now thinks Zoilo Almonte is the next Yankee corner outfielder, Swisher’s eventual replacement. Lets see him have a better than .309 OBP in Double A first, ok? He was WAY overmatched in Trenton last year.

    Try not to allow a dozen spring at bats and one quote from Joe Girardi lead you astray.

    • sfly6844

      Well said..

    • .zip file

      All of this.

  • Dicka24

    I saw this kid pitch on TV here in Boston when they played a minor league game on NESN I think. As I watched, I had no idea who it was on the mound until the announcers mentioned his name, which wasn’t until an inning later. Anyhow, I was really impressed with the movement of his pitches. His stuff looked real good. Hopefully he gets a shot at some point.