David Phelps is a 6’2”, 200 lb. right-handed pitcher from St. Louis, Missouri. Born on October 9th, 1986, he was selected by the New York Yankees in the 14th round of the 2008 amateur draft, with the 440th overall choice out of Notre Dame. To date, the only other players from that round to make it to the major leagues are fellow right-handed pitchers Louis Coleman (Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Dodgers) and Michael Schwimmer (Philadelphia Phillies).
Phelps cut through the Yankees’ minor league system, spending less than a full season at each of their four lower level farm teams, including the Staten Island Yankees (low-A New York-Penn League, 8-2, 2.72 ERA), the Charleston RiverDogs (single-A South Atlantic League, 10-3, 2.80 ERA), the Tampa Yankees (high-A Florida State League, 3-1, 1.17 ERA), and the Trenton Thunder (double-A Eastern League, 6-0, 2.04 ERA). After spending over a season with their triple-A International League affiliate, the Scranton/Wilkes Barre Yankees (11-8, 3.03 ERA), he made his major league debut with New York in 2012.
Phelps spent three seasons with the Yankees after his promotion, less a few rehab appearances. He pitched in 87 games, starting 40 of them and compiling a 15-14 record, a 4.21 ERA, a 1.346 WHIP, and 191 strikeouts over 199.2 innings in total. After the book was closed on the 2014 campaign, the Yankees traded Phelps to the Marlins with Martin Prado and a cash settlement for Garrett Jones, Domingo German, and Nathan Eovaldi. Looks like we won this time.
Phelps started the 2015 season in Miami's bullpen, but quickly joined the rotation after Henderson Alvarez imploded. Phelps started in 19 contests for the Marlins, but somehow that ranked for the third leading figure on the team. He went 4-8 with a 4.50 ERA over his 23 appearances, racking up a 1.357 WHIP with 77 whiffs in 112 innings pitched (also third on the team). He did pitch nearly half-a-run better than was shown by his ERA, evidenced by his 4.03 FIP.
On April 23rd, in Phelps’ first win of the season, he pitched seven shutout, three-hit innings, striking out five and defeating the Philadelphia Phillies, 9-1. May 15th would see him allow one earned run over six innings, striking out eight Braves in a 5-3 loss to Atlanta. On June 11th, he pitched eight shutout innings, giving up four hits and striking out six in a 6-0 victory over the Colorado Rockies. The Marlins posted a 6-13 record in his starts, going 65-78 when someone else did. Of Phelps’ 2.6 WAR earned over two seasons with the Marlins, 0.1 of it was earned in 2015.
In 2016, Phelps started the season again in Miami’s bullpen, and stayed there for the most part. He was Miami’s most dependable reliever, posting a 7-6 record, a team-best 2.28 ERA, and a bullpen-best 1.142 WHIP. In 86.2 innings, Phelps seemed to rediscover how to strike batters out. His 11.8 whiffs per nine innings would have topped most teams, but ranked third on the Marlins due to resident rock star Jose Fernandez (12.5) and effectively wild fireballer Kyle Barraclough (14.0). Phelps totaled 114 strikeouts to rank fourth on the team.
When called upon to join the rotation for five turns through the month of August, Phelps never at any point gave up more than four hits. He struck out 32 batters in 24.1 innings, holding opponents to a .184 batting average. He went 2-1 through the stretch, while Miami won in four of his five starts overall.
On April 7th, Phelps entered in the second inning of a 3-3 tie with the Washington Nationals, and earned Miami’s first win of the campaign by pitching four innings of two-hit shutout ball (Miami won, 6-4). His best start was on August 20th, when he struck out nine over six innings of work, allowing just a single, a double, and two walks as the Marlins defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates, 3-1.
Phelps is under team control, although he is second-year arbitration eligible. The Fish offered him a contract on December 3rd. It’s likely he remains with the team as a reliever, with the long term possibility that he could someday enter the setup/closer tandem. As always, he’s available to the Marlins as an emergency starter.