Phelps started his first full professional season in Charleston and didn’t miss a beat, going 10-3 with a 2.80 ERA in nineteen starts and 112.2 innings. He allowed just 25 walks and struck out 90 batters before being promoted to Tampa. Phelps was even more impressive in Tampa, where he had a 1.17 ERA in seven games.
Instead of starting 2010 back in Tampa, the Yankees put Phelps in Trenton, bumping him up to Scranton partway through the season after he went 6-0 with a 2.04 ERA and his highest K/9 thus far of 8.6. His numbers came down a bit in Scranton, but Phelps still put in a strong showing.
2011 gave Phelps his first professional hurdle, as he struggled right away and then missed some time due to shoulder tendonitis. He was invited to the big league Spring Training camp and put too much pressure on himself, which resulted in a poor showing. It continued into his first couple starts, but eventually he was able to put it all back together and ended the season throwing 107.1 innings in Scranton with a 3.19 ERA, continuing to keep his walks low (26) and strike out batters (90). He appears to have learned a lot from his 2011 and has started 2012 off very strong.
An aggressive pitcher, Phelps has four big league caliber pitches. He strikes out a lot of hitters, but is efficient on the mound so he lasts deep into games. He throws a great fastball, preferring his sinking two-seam fastball, but also has a power four-seam that has topped out at 95mph. Phelps has great command of both, as evidenced by his ability to keep walks way down.
Phelps also throws a slider, changeup and curveball. Phelps’ slider is one of the best in the Yankees system with a nice break. He throws it with real confidence and is willing to use it in most situations. His changeup is his contact out pitch and his curveball has progressed nicely, giving him another strikeout options.
Phelps ability to command four big league pitches means he should have a career as a major league starter. He projects into the middle or back-end of a starting rotation. He isn’t going to issue many walks and shows some very smart pitching on the mound. Phelps has drawn comparisons with former Yankee Ian Kennedy. He likely would be ready for a stint in the majors this season, but the Yankees are flush with pitchers so it is hard to know when he will get his opportunity. He will be a major part of Scranton’s starting rotation this season, and should be on the Yankees short list for spot starts or even some bullpen work.