First real news in a week: the Rule 5 Draft happened today, and for the first time I can remember, the Yanks made a pick. Rule 5 allows a dispersal draft of certain eligible players left off 40 man rosters, so long as the drafting team a) pays $50,000, and b) keeps the player on the major league (25 man) roster for the following season.
So the Yanks' pickup is Josh Phelps--yes, the cover boy of Baseball Prospectus 2003. Phelps is a DH/first baseman, a righthanded hitter with lots of power who never really has gotten a proper chance. Phelps's career numbers: .268/.336/.473 with 57 homers in about 1,300 major league plate appearances. In a nine-year minor league career, he has an impressive .236 isolated power (that's slugging percentage minus batting average). Everything points to this guy being able to rake, at least a better than Andy Phillips.
The best thing is, Phelps might obviate the Yanks' desire for Richie Sexon--this off-season's scary Yankee rumor. Sexon's clearly a better hitter than Phelps, but he's also 3 1/2 years older and about $11 million more expensive. Phelps also will not cost the Yanks anything in terms of talent in trade. The big questions are, can Phelps field at first base or even (gasp!) catcher well enough to make him a worthwhile guy to have on the roster? After all, if you're carrying around Phelps as a righthanded DH and Phillips as a defensive sub at first, you're really wasting a roster spot.
I first heard about Phelps's acquisition from Brother Joe through Baseball Prospectus's newest feature, the BP:Unfiltered blog. The blog is an opportunity for BP's writers (including, eventually, me) to share quick thoughts with the public. Best of all, it's free.