Big picture, the past 12 months have not been good for Yankees pitching prospects. Andrew Brackman was cut, D.J. Mitchell was traded, Dellin Betances was demoted, Manny Banuelos and Jose Campos were hurt, and Adam Warren was called to the big leagues for one spot start but hasn’t gotten into a game since.
Then there’s this guy.
The one who pitched 6.2 innings of one-run baseball last night. The one who, at some point in the past two years, was considered a lesser prospect than every single pitcher listed above. The one who’s saved the Yankees pitching staff on more than one occasion, and done it from more than one role.
“I’ve been under the radar my whole career,” David Phelps said. “It speaks volumes for the talent we do have in our system. I’ve worried about making sure that I do my job, and that I be the best that I can be. Throughout the minor leagues I’ve come up with a great group of guys: Me, Adam, D.J., Manny, Dellin. We all root for each other, and we all feed off each other. … The biggest thing for me is just not really worrying about what other guys are doing, not worrying about, if this guy does well then that means I won’t get a chance. Just a matter of, I didn’t mind being under the radar because it’s not a bad place to be.”
It’s not a bad place to be, as long as you trust that opportunities will present themselves whether you’re on the radar or not. Plenty of minor leaguers get lost in the shuffle and come to believe that their success means nothing, that they’re never going to get a shot, no matter happens. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, though, is fond of telling the story of Andy Pettitte rising through the Yankees system at a time when other pitching prospects were supposed to be much better.
“Your whole life you put in all the hard work to get to this point, and you want to do well,” Phelps said. “I’ve been fortunate enough that I’ve been put in some situations that I’ve been able to succeed.”
Phelps has a 3.24 ERA through 30 appearances, 10 of them starts. His 1.20 WHIP is the same as CC Sabathia’s and better that Dave Robertson’s. He’s thrown 91.2 innings, so small sample size isn’t much of an issue. When the season started, Baseball American ranked Banuelos, Betances, Warren and Mitchell — four guys who started this season in Triple-A and could have pitched themselves into a similar situation — ahead of Phelps in their preseason prospect rankings.
Next year, though, Phelps will be the only one of that group who’s no longer eligible for the Prospect Handbook. He’s graduated to be a full-fledged big leaguer at this point.
Under the radar isn’t a bad place to be, as long as you trust that opportunities will come.
“That’s anything in life, though,” Phelps said. “That’s more than just baseball. You see it in everyday life, but the game evens things out. If you’re able. and if you do get your opportunity, you have to be able to make the most of it.”
Associated Press photo