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 Minor League News & Autograph Blog Home

Top Prospect Alert - Josh Phelps

By Schuyler Dombroske

DOB: 5/12/78, Age: 23, Height: 6’3’’, Weight: 215, Bats: R, Throws: R. Acquired: Blue Jays - Drafted in 10th Round of 1996 Draft (Lakeland HS, Rathdrum, ID). 2000 Stats: (AA - Tennessee) .228 AVG, 184 AB, 9 2B, 1 3B, 9 HR, 1 SB, 15 BB, 66 K, .290 OBP, .435 SLG; (High-A - Dunedin) .319 AVG, 113 AB, 7 2B, 0 3B, 12 HR, 0 SB, 12 BB, 34 K, .384 OBP, .699 SLG.  2001 Stats: (AA - Tennessee) .292 AVG, 486 AB, 36 2B, 1 3B, 31 HR, 3 SB, 80 BB, 127 K, .406 OBP, .562 SLG.
   Josh Phelps seems to be a good fit for the new “Ricciardi regime” in Toronto. Phelps is a “three true outcome” kind of player: exhibiting impressive power, a modicum of patience, and the propensity to swing and miss quite often. He is rather unusual for an upper-level prospect, as he has been fairly slow to develop, and has initially struggled at almost every new level (3 out of 4). Phelps’ two biggest attributes are certainly his power and his patience. His HR/AB numbers the past three seasons have been between 1/20 and 1/14, and I wouldn’t expect to see him too far out of this range at any level. The more impressive progression has been his BB/AB, which decreased from 1/14 in 1999 to 1/11 in 2000, and dropped again to 1/6 last year. Maintaining these two abilities will be crucial to Phelps’ potential to sustain a major-league career, because he is no sure bet to remain behind the dish. Phelps has failed to catch even a half-season the past three years, spending a great deal of time as the DH. He even played a game at first in the AFL, opening up another possibility for his future with the Jays. The Jays seem to think that he has the potential to become an excellent receiver, but the constant injuries are a bad sign for his continued progress. Josh’s speed wouldn’t normally be considered an attribute, but relative to his position, he runs better than the norm. He is not going to be a great contact hitter, however, as his swing is much too long. Those are the extent of his weaknesses, and they are ones that the Jays likely will be happy to live with if he can maintain the positive points of his game.
   The Jays are loaded on the hitting side of the ball, with catcher being the only position that one could consider “open” for the future between Phelps and Jayson Werth. Both are solid prospects, and there aren’t really any other openings in the batting order with Delgado, Hudson/Bush, Lopez, Hinske, Stewart, Wells, Mondesi, and Cruz locked in. The Jays’ rotation is still suspect, and with J.P. Ricciardi already showing a willingness to deal, it is likely that one of the aforementioned names will be dealt for some pitching. Werth is athletic enough to handle a position shift to a reasonable number of places, while Phelps would be limited to first, catcher, or DH, so if Phelps can stay healthy he probably would stay behind the plate before Werth. In fact, Phelps may very well force his way into a platoon with incumbent Darrin Fletcher if he can have a good enough spring this season. More likely, he will spend much of the year at Syracuse (waiting for the downfall of Mr. Fletcher), where I will be able to catch him frequently. He should be in Toronto to stay by the end of this year. Since no better current day comparison is coming to mind, my best likeness for Phelps is Johnny Romano, a ‘60’s catcher for the Indians who had a very similar skill set (including the skill of ill health). At the very least, he should have a useful career as a Glenallen Hill type of lefty-basher who will provide a very solid OPS against portsiders. At best, he discovers the magical “health elixir”, and catches 140 games a year for the Jays for the next decade or so. Either way, he should be able to put together a fairly substantial career with his skill set, especially since he resides in an organization that will appreciate what he brings to the table. He should be a solid major-leaguer, but probably not an all-star.


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