If there’s one thing that David Phelps has shown the New York Yankees, it’s that he can fill some pretty big roles. Filling in for the ace of the pitching staff is by no means an easy task, but it is something Phelps has done well with this season. Unfortunately for Phelps, he will more than likely be optioned back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre when CC Sabathia is eligible to come off of the disabled list Friday. Currently Phelps is slated to make the start in Friday’s game, but that more than likely will not happen. I’ve talked before about Phelps being in 2013’s rotation, but with the way Hiroki Kuroda has been pitching lately, the front office might want to reconsider their one-year deal with him and perhaps offer him a deal after the season. So, where does Phelps go when all is said and done? Keeping him in the minors is not an option because Phelps has quality stuff and I really don’t know how much more he can prove in the minors.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Phelps is he’s made starts against some pretty decent teams such as the Angels, Rangers, Rays and Red Sox. He’s faced some of those teams multiple times. The other notable thing about Phelps is, knock on wood; he hasn’t allowed more than three runs in any of his appearances, relief or starting, this season. He has an ERA of 2.69, a WHIP of 1.15 with a deceiving record of 3-4. Even his WAR is 1.8. Phelps is just a rookie and is throwing some quality stuff. He’s a strikeout pitcher as he’s struck out 66 batters in 63.2 innings pitched and his fastball helps him out a lot. Phelps has outstanding command for a rookie as he doesn’t tend to walk too many batters.
Sure, Phelps got knocked around a little bit in his last outing against Boston, but overall, he’s filled Sabathia’s shoes well. Sabathia, who has historically never performed well against the Red Sox, could have had a worse outing, but that’s just speculation. If Phelps fits into this rotation at all, it has to be in place of Ivan Nova. Since July, Nova has been constantly struggling and only has a couple quality starts to show for his overall numbers since then. Maybe Nova needs some time off from starting to regroup, and if so, then Phelps should be the guy to replace him. No, in fact, Phelps will be the guy to replace him. If Phelps can cover Sabathia, I’m pretty sure he would have no trouble in filling in for Nova.
Looking at next year though, the Yankees’ rotation is set in stone for now with Sabathia, Nova, Michael Pineda (granted his latest scenario may not play out in his favor), and probably Phil Hughes. Then there’s the question on whether or not we re-sign Kuroda and what to do with Andy Pettitte. Unfortunately for Phelps, I think if he sees any MLB action at all, it may be through relief appearances only. It’d be a shame to waste his talent when we know he has the potential to give us those quality starts. The rotation right now is too highly dependent on Kuroda and even Freddy Garcia, who has been doing well to replace Pettitte. Phelps could help ease some of that tension for the other starters.
So, this brings us back the original question, what can the Yanks expect from Phelps? The answer; consistency and quality. From what we’ve seen, Phelps has established himself around his fastball and slider to become a strikeout pitcher. He also doesn’t walk a lot of batters, which is a problem that Nova has still to work on. Will Phelps see the rotation next year? It’s possible if everything falls in his general direction, but that’s jumping through a lot of hoops. Phelps needs to be a part of this Yankee pitching staff somehow and if Joe Girardi believes that Phelps can work his way to it through the bullpen, then so be it. At least we’ll know Phelps’ talents will be appreciated somehow.