Blue Jays cast off slumping Phelps

By Jim Callis
August 6, 2004

A year ago, Josh Phelps looked like one of the building blocks for the Blue Jays. But after he had gone through a season-long slump in 2004 while approaching arbitration, Toronto decided to trade him on Friday. The Blue Jays sent Phelps to the Indians for Triple-A first baseman/outfielder Eric Crozier.

Phelps, 26, hit .279/.355/.497 with 35 homers in 674 at-bats in 2002-03. But this year, he has backed off the plate and pitchers have found they can get him out easily by working him low and away. Phelps is hitting just .237/.296/.417 with 12 homers and 51 RBIs in 79 games. He has power to all fields, but he needs to make further adjustments and tighten his strike zone (18 walks versus 73 whiffs in 295 at-bats in 2004). Originally a catcher, Phelps had injury problems while behind the plate and is now a DH/first baseman. He doesn’t offer much as a runner or a defender. Likely to be eligible for arbitration with two-plus years of service time after 2004, he’s a career .266/.337/.473 hitter with 47 homers and 176 RBIs in 281 games.

Crozier, 25, was a 41st-round pick out of Norfolk State in 2002, when he led the Mid-Eastern Conference in hitting at .376. His bat is his ticket, especially as his power has emerged with 39 homers in 643 at-bats over the last two seasons. In 84 games at Triple-A Buffalo this year, he hit .297/.375/.571 with 20 homers and 43 RBIs, easily the best performance of his pro career. He has played primarily first base, but he also can play left field and has enough arm strength for right. In 426 minor league games, he has batted .270/.368/.450 with 57 homers and 216 RBIs.