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Diamonds in Single A: Cord Phelps

June 9, 2009
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Since the draft is this Tuesday, I thought it would be appropriate to look back on one of last year’s draft class for my column this week, so let’s take a look at Cord Phelps.

Cord Phelps was the Indians 3rd round pick last year out of Stanford. He is primarily a second basemen, which is where he has played exclusively since he was drafted. At the time he was viewed by some as an over draft, but he has excelled so far in the minors and made the selection seem shrewd.

2008 SS .376 10 2 .68 7.14 .454 .830
2009 A+ .422 16 1 1.05 6.08 .397 .818

First and foremost, when looking at these numbers you should remember that Phelps is yet to play a complete season in the minors. Due to injuries he suffered in college he was late to join Mahoning Valley in the short season league, though that did not stop him from being listed as one of the top prospects in the entire New York- Penn League last year.

This year Cord actually has more plate appearances than he had all of last year in Mahoning Valley. One of the first things that jumps out in these numbers is the walk to strike out rate, which is almost even. The Indians appear to be making a concerted effort to acquire more players who are more balanced with walks and strike outs and less who are free swingers. They aren’t alone in this, as the post steroid era has seen major changes all over baseball. A few years ago a player with Phelps’ modest home run potential would have been over looked, but not anymore. Phelps’ numbers show that while he might not hit home runs, he still has extra base hit potential. He could be a player who hits in the 30-40 double range every year, which might be more due to his intangibles than speed. Thus far in his career in the minors he has been caught more times then he has actually stolen a base, which shows that many of his doubles are due to heads up base running and being aware of the flow of the game.

The problem with just looking at these stats for a player like Cord Phelps is that while his stats have been good, he is a player who does more than just what shows in the numbers. There are no great stats for fielding, but it should be noted he has made only one error this season, which is a solid improvement over the five he had last year in about 100 less chances. I know a lot of people look at Cord Phelps and have commented he does everything well and nothing great, which leads people to undervalue him.

His stats have shown the potential for him to hit .280 with an OBP around .380 and hit 30 doubles a year while playing solid, steady defense. Only four second basemen accomplished that feat last year: Ian Kinsler, Brian Roberts, Chase Utley, and Dustin Pedroia. While Cord might not have the pop of Utley or the speed of Roberts, he still brings enough to the table to project out as a solid regular.

One last note — I decided to look at Pedroia’s minor league stats as he was also too slow and didn’t do anything better than average by most scouting reports. And there is some room for stat comparisons. I talked of Phelps’ lack of stolen base success but Pedroia was even worse in the minors. Similar walk to strike out rates, similar doubles pop. Pedroia had shown more home run pop, but if Phelps ends up being a Pedroia light then he was a steal in round 3 and will be playing 2B for the Indians for a very long time.

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