Like a church mouse tiptoeing on a supple Persian rug, the Cord Phelps era in Cleveland came to an end when the Orioles claimed him on waivers last week. Actually, it never really began.

There’s been only a handful full of causes that I’ve continually championed over the years – the “deal Chris Perez before it is too late” campaign flopped, as did the get-Carlos-Santana-from-behind-the-plate movement until recently.

And now the cause closest to my heart – Cord Phelps is a viable big league option – has quietly passed.

I fought the good fight. And lost.

Phelps was something of a quasi-sabermetric wonder. A year after being grabbed in the third round from Stanford University in 2008, the Indians aggressively pushed Phelps into high Class A where his triple-slash line, .261/.386/.363, looked, well, a bit underwhelming. Except, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, the former Cardinal topped the league average offense by 18%, which happened to be the best mark for a second baseman in the Carolina League that year.

In 2010, Phelps moved to Class AA for half of a season where he once again topped the league average offense, though this time is was by a slim 2% margin. But something clicked in Phelps when he was promoted to Triple-A in the latter half of that year. He started hitting for more power, and his production soared.

Here’s how Phelps’ production fared in comparison to the International League offensive average:


Prod. Compared to IL










Phelps’ worst year, coincidentally or not, was last season, and he still managed to top the IL league average by 17%.

Overall, the versatile Phelps owns a career .286/.367/.471 line in Triple-A — in more than 1500 plate appearances. And, yet, he made it to the big leagues for just 123 trips to the plate.

Is Phelps an everyday player? No. But for an organization that was continually rebuilding through his professional career, the Indians failed to see what type of ceiling he could have had in the big leagues.

He walked in nearly 12% of his career minor league plate appearances; he flashed solid-average power during his (long) stint in Columbus (.186 Isolate Power); He can play multiple positions (though, none too well, admittedly), and he can switch-hit. Oh, yeah, he owns a nearly 18% line drive rate and has hit .280/.361/.491 against RHs since 2011.

Instead, the Indians continued to throw at bats and playing time away. Jose Lopez hit a paltry .249/.272/.366 in 224 plate appearances two years ago, only slightly besting Shelley Duncan’s .203/.288/.388 line. Brent Lillibridge, a washed-up Johnny Damon, an over-the-hill Orlando Cabrera, Travis Buck, Trevor Crowe, Andy Marte, and Mark Grudzielanek. It’s a who’s who of has beens or never was’s.

Everyone got their shot but Cord Phelps.

Alas, he’s headed to the land of crab cakes where, hopefully, he gets some sort of shot. For me, however, it’s time I relinquish my pen and pick up another cause.


For my prospect ramblings check out Joe’s site:


  • medfest says:

    Phelps problem is that he doesn’t really have a position where he can be counted on as a reliable fielder.

    My friend, who goes to spring training every year for two weeks , has said in each of the the last three years,that Phelps made the hardest,consistent contact of any of the hitters in camp.

    You’re right, he should have been given an extended shot to play left field at the very least.

  • Gvl Steve says:

    You never want to give up too soon on a player (Call it the Brandon Phillips rule), but Phelps was SO BAD both offensively and defensively that you just couldn’t put him out there to give him his chance. If you played him for a week you got four errors and three hits. It was shocking, because he was so good in the minors. Maybe he just didn’t have the psychological makeup to play under pressure in the majors.