Josh Phelps turns 44 today.
Phelps was one of the Blue Jays’ catchers of the future who didn’t turn out to be a catcher. Josh was #36 on the Baseball America top 100 prospects before the 2002 season.
He was terrific coming up through our minor league system. In 2001 he hit .292/.406/.562 with 31 home runs in 136 games with the Double-A Tennessee Smokies. 2002 he hit .292/.380/.658 with 24 home runs in 70 games at Triple-A Syracuse. We thought we had someone who could slug in the middle of the order with another of our former catchers of the future, Carlos Delgado.
After getting one at-bat in 2000 and 12 at-bats in 2001 (without getting a hit), the Jays called him up in June 2002. He didn’t hit his first home run until his 14th game, but he would finish with 15 home runs and a .309/.352/.562 line in 83 games, playing DH. On August 29th, he hit two home runs off Roger Clemens. I was always happy to see us beat Clemens. Josh would drive in 4 runs against the Yankees the next day (not that it got us a win, Pete Walker gave up 8 in 5 innings to get the loss).
In 2003 Josh hit .268/.358/.470 with 20 home runs in 119 games. He had injury troubles all his career.
In 2004 he was hitting .237/.296/.417 with 12 home runs in 79 games, and then, on August 4th, we traded him to Cleveland for Eric Crozier. It was a type-for-type trade. Crozier was also a power-hitting DH/first baseman, but it didn’t work out for the Jays. Crozier would play 14 games with the Jays (the total of his MLB career), hitting .152/.282/.394.
Phelps hit .303/.338/.579 in 24 games for Cleveland. After the season, he signed with the Rays as a free agent. After that, Josh went to the Tigers, Orioles, Yankees, Pirates, Cardinals, Giants, Rockies, and Cleveland again. Of course, when you are a top prospect, teams will give you a shot. But then he didn’t play in the majors for most of those teams.
He last played in the majors in 2008, getting 36 at-bats with the Cardinals. Career, he played in 465 games and had a .273/.343/.472 line with 64 home runs.
Why didn’t he have the career we expected. Well, in 2005, Baseball Prospectus wrote this:
He had more power than your local utility but has no clue what to do with it, swinging indiscriminately at pitches, relay throws from the outfield, low-hanging clouds. As his time in Toronto went on, Phelps crossed the line dividing productive aggression and diminishing returns, so this positionless player was sent south for nothing more than Eric Crozier. Working with Eddie Murray, he cut his strikeouts just slightly, but that sample is so tiny as to be nearly meaningless. Signed by Tampa, Phelps will meet Lou Piniella at the same age that the somewhat similar Jay Buhner did. Buhner blossomed at that point; Phelps will need to follow instruction a lot better than he did with the Jays to have a chance to do the same.
Apparently, he didn’t.
Not having a position didn’t help, and the 25.6% career strikeout rate (getting worse as his career went on) didn’t help either. Maybe if he could have stuck at catcher, his career would have gone better. Unfortunately, you have to hit when you are a DH or someone else gets the job. It isn’t a place where you can slowly develop as a hitter.
Anyway, Happy Birthday, Josh. I hope it is a good one.
Felipe Lopez turns 42 today.
The Blue Jays drafted Felipe in the first round of the 1998 draft, number 6 overall. CC Sabathia was the best of the first round, taken with the 20th pick. Lopez didn’t burn it up in the minors, but the Jays called him up in August of 2001. In 49 games, he hit .260/.304/.418.
He started the 2002 season with the Jays but was sent back to the minors in mid-June. He hit .227/.287/.387 in 134 games with the Jays.
After the season, he was part of a complicated 4-team trade. Lopez ended up with the Reds. The Jays ended up getting Jason Arnold from the A’s. He never played in the majors.
Lopez would play 11 seasons in the MLB, hitting .264/.333/.391, with 90 home runs in 1185 games.
Happy Birthday, Felipe. I hope it is a good one.
Jonathan Davis turns 30 today.
Davis has played 122 games for the Jays, spread over four seasons. He hit .180/.285/.263 with 4 home runs and 11 steals. He was about as good a player as a .180 hitting outfielder can be. But then that is a pretty low bar.
The Yankees took him off waivers in August of last year, and he played 12 games for them. This off-season, he signed a minor-league deal with the Brewers, as the Brewers have some sort of rule that they have to sign all available former Blue Jays.
Happy Birthday, Jonathan.