David Phelps, 24, is a right handed pitcher listed at 6-3 and 190-pounds. He was born in St. Louis, Missouri and attended Hazelwood West High School and later went to the University of Notre Dame. He was drafted by the Yankees in the 14th round of the amateur draft and signed for a signing bonus of $150,000.
In his first year at Notre Dame, Phelps was primarily a reliever and had a 7.09 ERA. It was his sophomore year that turned out to be very big for him. In 15 starts that year he had a 1.88 ERA and 102 strikeouts in 110 innings. His junior year was a pretty big let down though as his strikeout rate dropped and his ERA ballooned to 4.65.
Phelps expected to get drafted much earlier in the draft and was disappointed to fall to the 14th round. It was likely his poor junior season that caused him to fall that low, but the Yankees were lucky enough to realize his potential after his sophomore year.
After signing with the Yankees Phelps started his career with the Short Season A-Ball Staten Island Yankees in 2008. He wasn’t exactly overpowering, but steadily became the ace of the Staten Island staff with a 2.72 ERA and just 18 walks over 72.2 innings(2.2 BB/9).
His solid season earned him a promotion to Low-A Charleston in 2009. There he pitched 112.2 innings over 19 games putting up an impressive 2.80 ERA. His walk ratio improved to 2.0. He was very impressive in Low-A so he got a late season promotion to High-A Tampa where he pitched better than at any other point in his career. Over just seven games he had a 1.17 ERA with a 1.4 BB/9.
It was just a small sample size in High-A, but he pitched so well that he started 2010 in Double-A. In Trenton he continued his hot ways putting up a 2.04 ERA over 88.1 innings and 14 games. For the first time his WHIP dropped below 1.00 to 0.974 even though his walk rate was the highest of his career at 2.3.
By the end of the year the Yankees promoted him to Triple-A where he pitched in 12 games over 70.1 innings. His ERA was a bit on the high side relative to the other levels at 3.07, but he was promoted fairly quickly and dealing with the toughest competition he had faced yet.
Phelps has a fastball that sits in the 93-95 mph range that he shows excellent command with. He also throws a two-seam fastball occasionally that comes in at 90 mph. Phelps used 2009 to improve his slider into a good pitch and learned a curveball in 2010 that has real potential to be a good pitch. He also throw a changeup.
Phelps works fast and works in the zone. None of his pitches are really of the plus-plus variety, but he has put up great numbers by constantly throwing strikes. His stuff has improved in each of the past two seasons so there is reason to believe that he can still improve.
At this point he seems like he has good middle of the rotation capability even in the AL East, but could easily become a key member of the Yankees bullpen at some point as well.
Phelps will almost definitely start the 2011 season in Triple-A, but with the Yankees rotation in flux it is not impossible that he could get called up to the Bronx rather quickly. He’s been healthy and pitched at least 150 innings each of the past three years including college so if he continues to improve his stuff he has nothing more to prove.