Phillies 2020 Player Grades: Brandon Workman, David Phelps
Grading Phillies RHP David Phelps’ 2020 season
The Phillies acquired David Phelps on August 31 in exchange for three low-level minor leaguers. He was the final pitcher that general manager Matt Klentak acquired for the bullpen in 2020, and perhaps the worst.
Phelps had been a quality bullpen arm for five different teams since he became a full-time reliever in 2016; his ERA from 2016-2019 was 2.85. He was particularly excellent in 2016, when he had a 2.28 ERA in 86.2 innings, with a 2.1 fWAR.
Phelps also impressed the Phillies’ brass with his early performance in 2020. In 13 innings for the Milwaukee Brewers, he pitched to a 2.77 ERA and a 2.81 FIP. He was striking out more batters and walking fewer than he ever had before.
However, there was some cause for concern with Phelps. He sat out the entire 2018 season with an elbow injury, and when he came back in 2019, he showed signs of decline. While his 3.41 ERA was still impressive, his 4.58 FIP and 5.01 xFIP were the worst of his career. His strikeout rate went down, his walk rate went up, and home run rate skyrocketed.
Clearly, Klentak thought that Phelps’ early 20202 success indicated that he had fully rebounded from his Tommy John surgery. Unfortunately, his performance with the Phillies showed that that was far from the case.
In 10 games, Phelps had an absurd 12.91 ERA and 9.97 FIP. While his strikeout rate was impressive and his walk rate was decent, he allowed five home runs in only 7 2/3 innings pitched.
As with Workman, Phelps was the victim of a ridiculously high HR/FB ratio: 50%. His career mark is 11.4%. Thus, he finished with a 4.01 xFIP, which is actually a decent number. It’s not good enough for a closer or a set-up man, but it’s better than a lot of pitchers in the Phillies bullpen.
Thus, while Phelps’ ERA was much worse than Workman’s, his K/9, BB/9 and xFIP suggest that he actually pitched somewhat better.
As with Workman, I want to take into account the fact that our expectations for Phelps were too high.