What will David Phelps’ role be in 2015?


The Marlins’ projected starting rotation has all the potential in the world in 2015 but still contains a question mark or two. Will Dan Haren retire? Will Henderson Alvarez continue to perform at near-ace-status? Will Mat Latos be effective in Miami as he was in Cincinnati?

If the season started today, the five spots sans Jose Fernandez in the starting rotation would be pretty well in hand. However, a team can never have enough pitching depth. Should a starter or two falter, the Marlins can be rest assured they have the pieces lurking close by to pick up some slack.

David Phelps, acquired this week from the New York Yankees, could fill that role. During his three years in the big leagues, Phelps has faced somewhat of a constant identity crisis. He has yet to establish himself as a full-blown starter or reliever. His numbers are split almost right down the middle. Phelps has appeared in a total of 87 games, with 40 of them being starts. In that time, he has been spectacularly average; the 26 year-old owns a career-4.21 ERA, 4.20 FIP and cumulative 96 ERA+.

It’s no wonder the Yankees seemingly never figured out what to do with him. Phelps has regressed somewhat since breaking in during the 2012 season. He has allowed 1.1 home run per 9 innings, 3.6 walks and a respectable 8.0 K/9 in 199.2 innings pitched over the last three seasons.

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Phelps was worth 2.2 WAR in 2012, and literally nothing the last two years. In 2014, the Yankees opened the year with Phelps in the bullpen, then all those injuries happened to their rotation and they promoted him mid-year, only to have Phelps ultimately close out the season right back in the pen. The Yankees didn’t know what kind of pitcher they had in Phelps, and the Marlins won’t either as 2015 looms nearer.

As I look into my crystal ball, I see David Phelps assuming the role left by Dan Jennings when he was traded. The Marlins rotation is basically set for 2015, and Phelps could be a leading candidate for long relief or sixth-and-seventh inning work in low-leverage situations. Phelps can also spot start if needed, and would likely compete with fellow newly-acquired hurler Aaron Crow should the need present itself in 2015.

It has been said that Garrett Jones was basically a throw-in of the trade with the Yankees. New York badly wanted Nathan Eovaldi, and the Marlins had wanted Martin Prado for several years. All indications are that Phelps served as a throw-in as well for the Marlins, who were already rich in starting pitchers and potential bullpen arms. Still, competition is always needed on a pitching staff and there will be multiple spots up for grabs in the Marlins bullpen in 2015. So, expect to see David Phelps right up in that mix during Spring Training even though he represents a replacement-level arm that likely won’t impact the Marlins in a big way during the year. However, he could eat up some much-needed innings and act as a life raft if the team loses some pitchers to injury.

Next: The Marlins Were Smart To Trade Casey McGehee