Friday, December 08, 2006

Josh Phelps

Just a quick note on the 1B/DH that the Yankees picked up in the Rule V Draft from the Orioles organization. Josh Phelps looks like a good bargain that could play a platoon with Andy Phillips if the Yankees want to go in that direction. I've been trolling around various places to get some metrics and background on Phelps and found a few interesting things.

The first thing I found was that Phelps was the 2003 cover of Baseball Prospectus' annual report. It was natural that I used my premium subscription to scour the BP logs for more on him. His PECOTA card doesn't really say much for him as a solid contributor in 2007, but then again his price is so low, we aren't going to lose anything in giving him a try. This is especially true when considering the list of comparable players to Phelps. Look at this very interesting list.

1. Pete Incaviglia (1992)
2. Julio Zuleta (2003)
3. Wes Helms (2004)
4. Bubba Trammel (1999)
5. Pedro Munoz (1996)
6. Marcus Thames (2005)

I stopped at Thames because we're all familiar with him, and it seems pointless to continue beyond 5 or 6. What you immediately see is Zuleta at #2 and Helms at #3. Zuleta was on my radar, and the Yankees actually looked hard at Helms and made him an offer before he signed with the Phillies. Phelps may simply be a much less expensive equivalent to those two guys, and Cashman may have pulled a rabbit out of his hat.

Pete Incaviglia played part time for the Astros in 1992 and posted a 115 OPS+, despite some very mediocre baseline numbers. Zuleta was a Pawtucket farmhand, tearing up the minors in 2003, before moving to Japan. Helms put up an 84 OPS+ in 2004 in limited action for Milwaukee. He does sport a 101 OPS+ for his career. Bubba Trammel was stellar in part time action for the Rays in 1999 with a 127 OPS+ and 14 homers in a little over 280 at bats. Pedro Munoz only managed 34 games for Oakland in his final MLB season in 1996. He had a 91 OPS+ and really was a non-factor. Finally, Marcus Thames was horrendous for Detroit in 107 at bats in 2005, but broke out in a big way last season with 26 homers and a 124 OPS+.

I also looked at his career splits, and compared them to Andy Phillips. In 192 career Major League at bats vs. righties, Phillips has a .746 OPS, versus a .489 against lefties. In 400 career at bats against lefties, Josh Phelps has a robust .857 OPS, while against righties he's not awful at .785 over 803 at bats. Throwing Craig Wilson into the mix, you get a busty .938 OPS against lefties in 558 career at bats, against .793 against righties over 1394 at bats. Phillips sample size is miniscule and I think you'll see him improve his numbers across the board if he gets the plate appearances in 2007. The Yankees would be wise to resign Wilson and let him play everyday, but should that elude them, a platoon between Phillips and Phelps may get the job done at a discount price. I like that idea as a good Plan B.