PHIL COKE, LEFT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: July 19, 1982
Drafted: 26th Round, 786th Overall, 2002 (Yankees)
How Acquired: Trade (with Yankees for cash)
College: San Joaquin Delta College (JC)
Agent: Full Circle Sports
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|Coke is a lefty reliever known primarily for his role in the bullpen of a string of Detroit playoff teams. He originally came up with the Yankees after signing as a draft-and-follow. Coke made very slow progress as a starter, but reached the majors immediately after converting to relief, which helped him increase his fastball velocity from the upper-80s to about 93 on average, where it’s remained consistently through 2016. He also throws a slider and change, both of which have been more effective than his fastball. Coke’s career numbers have been mediocre: 4.23 ERA, 4.16 xFIP, 1.43 WHIP. Other than 2011, when he spent about half the season in the Tigers’ rotation, Coke has been exclusively a reliever, generally one who faces left-handed hitters as much as possible. Left-handed hitters during his career have managed only a 239/299/354 line against him, while right-handed hitters have hit him hard, with a 297/378/452 line. He’s generally been a ground ball pitcher, with a 44.2% groundball rate. Coke was nearly traded to the Pirates in 2008, when he was included in one of a couple of alternative packages the Pirates considered in exchange for Xavier Nady.
Coke got into just limited action in relief in the GCL.
Coke again saw only limited action, split between the GCL and New York-Penn League.
The Yankees sent Coke to low A for the season and he mostly pitched as a starter. He wasn’t very effective.
Still pitching mainly as a starter, Coke spent most of the season in high A. He pitched much better, although the move to the pitching-dominated Florida State League probably helped.
The Yankees kept Coke in high A all year, except for some time missed due to minor injuries. He remained in the rotation and pitched about the same as the previous year.
The Yankees moved Coke up to AA and he pitched much better, which Baseball America attributed to better conditioning. In August, the team moved him up to AAA and converted him to relief. He pitched better there than his ERA suggests, as shown by his K rate. The Yankees added him to their 40-man roster and called him up for September and he pitched very well in a dozen relief appearances for them.
Coke spent the season with the Yankees and was a mainstay out of their bullpen, appearing in 72 games. The Yankees utilized him as a LOOGY, having him face left-handed hitters 56% of the time. His WHIP suggests that he pitched much better than his ERA, but his xFIP of 4.13 wasn’t much better than the ERA. He benefited from an extremely low BABIP of .215. He had problems with gopher balls, allowing ten. After the season, the Yankees traded Coke to Detroit in a large, three-way deal that also involved Arizona.
With Detroit, Coke got into 74 games, including one start. He wasn’t used as a lefty specialist to the degree that he was with the Yankees. He was only moderately effective.
Early in the season, the Tigers moved Coke into their rotation. He stayed there until early July, making 14 starts and then moving back to relief. He was slightly more effective as a starter, holding opponents to a lower OPS (.779 to .705), although his ERA was better as a reliever (3.71 to 4.82).
Coke went back to full-time relief, appearing in 66 games. The Tigers used him more strictly as a lefty specialist and he was just modestly effective against left-handed hitters, holding them to a 263/313/373 line. Right-handed hitters torched him for a 396/446/604 line, leading to overall bad numbers on the season. Much of the damage came in the form of a very high BABIP of .388. His xFIP of 3.65 was actually a career best.
Coke had a rough season, missing time with a groin strain and an elbow injury, and not pitching well when he was available. He was hampered by uncharacteristic control problems.
Coke spent the entire season with Detroit, appearing in 62 games, and again wasn’t very effective. He had his usual sizeable platoon split, with right-handed hitters batting .333 against him. He became a free agent after the season.
Coke didn’t sign with anybody until the Cubs gave him a minor league deal after the start of spring training. He made their roster out of camp and they employed him as a LOOGY, but he pitched poorly and Chicago released him in late May. He signed a minor league deal with Toronto, was called up two weeks later, then was designated for assignment ten days later and refused the assignment, becoming a free agent. Oakland signed him to a minor league deal, but he pitched very poorly in the minors for them and they released him in mid-August.
Coke again didn’t sign with anybody until early in spring training, when he signed a minor league deal with Atlanta. The Braves released him before the end of spring training, though, and he caught on with Lancaster in the independent Atlantic League. He started just one game there before signing a minor league deal with the Yankees in late April. New York called him up two weeks later and he got into three games with the Yankees before being outrighted to AAA. He spent the rest of the minor league season in AAA, pitching well in a swing role. The Pirates acquired him for cash with less than two weeks left in the season.
It’s not entirely clear what the Pirates plan to do with Coke, but they may have been motivated by concerns over some of their pitchers being overworked. Despite the expanded rosters, they were hampered by injuries to Gerrit Cole, Jeff Locke, Neftali Feliz and A.J. Schugel, and by the frequent failure of their makeshift rotation to give them more than 4-5 innings. They were also reluctant to work any of their many rookie pitchers very hard. Coke might be moderately useful as long as he’s not allowed to face right-handed hitters, but the Pirates aren’t big on lefty specialists. Coke will be a free agent again after the season.
2016: Major league minimum
|Signing Bonus: N/A
MiLB Debut: 2003
MLB Debut: 9/1/2008
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2016
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 9/1/2008
Options Remaining: N/A
MLB Service Time: 6.091
|June 5, 2001: Drafted in the 49th round, 1450th overall, by the Florida Marlins.
June 4, 2002: Drafted in the 26th round, 786th overall, by the New York Yankees; signed on May 26, 2003.
September 1, 2008: Contract purchased by the New York Yankees.
December 8, 2009: Traded by the New York Yankees with Austin Jackson to the Detroit Tigers in a three-team deal. The Tigers sent Curtis Granderson to the Yankees and Edwin Jackson to the Arizona Diamondbacks; the Yankees sent Ian Kennedy to the Diamondbacks; and the Diamondbacks sent Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth to the Tigers.
October 30, 2014: Became a free agent.
March 5, 2015: Signed by the Chicago Cubs as a minor league free agent.
March 30, 2015: Called up by the Chicago Cubs.
May 18, 2015: Designated for assignment by the Chicago Cubs; released May 26.
May 30, 2015: Signed by the Toronto Blue Jays as a minor league free agent.
June 11, 2015: Called up by the Toronto Blue Jays.
June 21, 2015: Outrighted to AAA by the Toronto Blue Jays; refused assignment and became a free agent.
June 27, 2015: Signed by the Oakland Athletics as a minor league free agent.
August 18, 2015: Released by the Oakland Athletics.
March 8, 2016: Signed by the Atlanta Braves as a minor league free agent.
March 26, 2016: Released by the Atlanta Braves.
April 25, 2016: Signed by the New York Yankees as a minor league free agent.
May 6, 2016: Called up by the New York Yankees.
May 17, 2016: Designated for assignment by the New York Yankees; outrighted to AAA on May 20.
September 22, 2016: Traded by the New York Yankees to the Pittsburgh Pirates for cash considerations.
September 23, 2016: Called up by the Pittsburgh Pirates.