Phelps Enjoying Success as Cleanup Man in Columbus
Matt Travis | On 24, Jun 2013
Back in the 2011 season, there was much debate over the three best infield prospects the Indians had in the minor leagues, Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall and Cord Phelps. All three were viewed with great potential and hope, creating the issue of who should be part of the future with the Tribe.
Moving forward to today, it is clear that Chisenhall is viewed as the future at third base, with Kipnis being the future at second base and Phelps still waiting in Triple-A. Some players might take the idea of playing at Triple-A and sulk, letting their play suffer but that is not the case with Phelps. This season Phelps has been a huge part of the Clippers offense, posting a stat line of .275/.340/.468 with 22 walks, 9 homeruns and 45 RBI in just 58 games.
Phelps was drafted by the Indians in third round of the 2008 draft out of Stanford, as an infielder that could play any of the four positions. Since he was drafted, Phelps‘ ability to be adaptive on and off the diamond has made the kind of player that has been moved around through the different levels of baseball on a very consistent basis.
“You just have to perform no matter where you are at,” Phelps said. “At this stage it is just part of the job. If you can get more comfortable going back and forth, in that role of moving around, it’s better and helps you as a player.”
Phelps started off his career in the Rookie League, at Mahoning Valley during the summer of 2008 for the Tribe. He started off his career with the Tribe by having a very strong first season, batting .312 with 21 RBI in only 35 games after being drafted. In 2009, he spent the season at Single-A Kinston, where his batting average dipped but he still had a very strong season, leading the Carolina league in walks (93) and was second in the league with an OBP of .386.
In 2010, he started the year in Akron, but was moved up and down between Akron and Columbus, spending 53 games in Akron and 66 guys in Columbus. That season showed what Phelps is capable of, as he was able to hit .317 in Columbus, while driving in 31 runs and drawing 24 walks.
Starting in 2011 and continuing onto this season, Phelps has been a player who has constantly been moved up and down I-71 between Columbus and Cleveland. In 2011, the split between the two cities was 97 games in Columbus with 35 games in Cleveland. The next season the breakdown was 135 games in Columbus and 14 games in Cleveland. So far this season Phelps has played in 58 games in Columbus and four in Cleveland.
With most of his time this season being spent in Columbus this season, Phelps has been able to settle into a rhythm and find a position in the lineup that works best for him. The spot this season for him has been batting forth in the cleanup spot. Despite hitting anywhere from two through five this year in the lineup, Phelps has spent his most time at cleanup.
“I have been hitting where they tell me to hit,” Phelps said. “Everyday I come in and if I am in the cleanup spot, I will hit there but if not then I will hit wherever the manager puts me at. Lately though it has been the cleanup spot so that’s the role I have been filling.”
During his last 13 games, Phelps has spent all of them batting in the cleanup role, hitting .365 with 6 RBI and a HR.
A big part of Phelps game has been his ability to hit doubles and drive in runs, a huge part of why he has earned that role as the cleanup man. On Saturday night, Phelps made Columbus Clippers history, as he hit his 94th and 95th double as a member of the Clippers. By hitting his 95th double, Phelps was able to break the record and become the all-time leading doubles hitter in Columbus Clippers history. This season alone Phelps has 16 doubles, putting him on pace for over 40 doubles on the season.
This season has been one of Phelps’s best for homerun power as well, hitting nine to hits point in the season, putting him on pace for his first 20 home run season.
“My swing hasn’t changed this season, just trying to put good swings on pitches to hit,” Phelps said. “A couple more have been solidly hit balls and left the park but really just trying to put good at bats together.”
A huge part of Phelps putting these good at bats together has been his eye at the plate. Overall Phelps as a career .64 BB/K ratio in Triple-A, a stat that shows how often a batter walks in comparison to striking out. To compare, Jason Kipnis had a .60 BB/K ratio during his time in Triple-A, with Lonnie Chisenhall having a .47 ratio. What this shows is that when comparing Phelps to the other two players going through the minors with him, he has the best eye of the three of them. This ability to see pitches in and out of the zone has led to his hitting success in Columbus.
Overall, Phelps has been somewhat forgotten by many in Cleveland and has been the product of an unlucky situation being behind Chisenhall and Kipnis. This situation however has not brought Phelps down or negatively impacted on his performance, as he is thriving and having one of his best seasons ever as a professional baseball player this season. If Phelps is able to keep his RBI and power numbers up, and continue to show he has a great eye for pitches out of the zone, then he could provide a solid boost to Cleveland at some point this season, either coming off the bench or playing for an injured player. With injuries being a problem so far this season for the Tribe, combined with his success in Columbus, Cord Phelps should be a name you want to remember this season.
Photo: Toledo Blade