By The Common Man
A new blog means new features (though also the continuation of old ones for those of you who are fans of Beer Leaguers, Nickname Review, and Random Thursdays). And one The Common Man wants to start today is “Random Minor Leaguer of the Week.” Each week, TCM or Bill will choose a minor leaguer to focus on, write up why he interests us, and perhaps even solicit scouting reports and analysis from you readers, since neither of us are scouts or prospect mavens. The first subject is Cord Phelps, a 23 year old 2B in the Cleveland organization, who TCM has been trying to ask the venerable Keith Law about in chats for weeks now.
Phelps was drafted in the 3rd round (107th overall) in 2008 by the Indians out of Stanford University, and has risen quickly through their minor league ranks. Despite this, he did not land on any of the top 100 prospect lists, and doesn’t even show up on anyone’s Top 10 list of Indians prospects.
He has posted strong batting averages and OBP at all of his stops, except for a .261 average in A+ Kinston last year that seems to have been depressed by the environment (the Carolina League hit just .256/.329/.383 as a whole that year). FanGraphs seems to reflect this and gives him a .350 wOBP for the year. He has a healthy walk rate of 12%, which is boosted significantly by his 93 walk performance in 2009.
Despite his success, Phelps’ long term outlook is probably questionable because of a lack of power. Across almost three minor league seasons, Phelps has hit just 13 bombs and has a slugging percentage of .411. Again, some of that is related to his time in Kinston. His non-Kinston SLG is actually a much healthier .453.
At just 23 years old, Phelps has saved his best performance for 2010, particularly in his first exposure to AAA for the Columbus Clippers. In 210 plate appreances, Phelps has hit .333/.407/.522 in a park that has traditionally depressed offense, and has even upped his homer output (he’s hit 5, more than he’s ever hit at any level before this).
Because of this success, and because of the abject failure of Luis Valbuena (.169/.259/.243), Phelps may be working his way into the 2B picture for the Indians going forward. Jason Donald has performed adequately (.259/.318/.400), but is two years older and lacks upside. Asdrubal Cabrera’s production is also down (.269/.326/.347) in an injury plagued year. While it’s tempting for the Indians to demonstrate getting value for the Cliff Lee deal, Phelps looks (from afar) to be a better player for the Tribe going forward. At 23, he’s already ahead of where Donald was at this age in every facet of the game except power.
So here’s where The Common Man opens it up to you, gentle readers. Have any of you seen Phelps play? What are your thoughts? Cleveland fans, is he an upgrade over Donald? How would you rank Phelps, Donald, Valbuena, and Cabrera? Does he deserve to be in the 2B conversation for 2011?