The Major League Baseball Amateur Draft came and went last week and the name “Turner Phelps” wasn’t called. So, the former Lord Botetourt pitching star will return to James Madison University for his senior season.

Phelps figured to go as high as the top 10 rounds after a strong showing in the Cape Cod League last summer, and even after a sub-par junior year at James Madison, people were still telling him he’d go between rounds 25-35 in the 50-round draft of high school and collegiate amateurs. Turner watched the draft with his advisor, and as the big league teams kept announcing names that weren’t his, it turned into a long couple days.

Turner Phelps delivers for the Dukes.
Turner Phelps delivers for the Dukes.

“At first I was real anxious, then I started getting nervous,” said Phelps. “By the time it ended I was angry.”

Turner will now turn his attention to having a big senior year, and cracking the top 10 rounds of next year’s draft. That’s where the big money is, although he admits he likely would have turned pro regardless of where he was picked last week, had he been picked.

A 2007 graduate of Lord Botetourt High School, Phelps made an immediate impact at James Madison University his freshman year. Last year, as a junior, he was expected to be the ace of the staff but, by his own admission, he didn’t pitch as well as expected.

“I had a pretty bad year,” he said. “I was tired and my velocity was down. My arm started to come around late in the season and I feel like I finished strong.”

Turner finished 3-4 with a 5.88 earned run average. By comparison, he was 8-0 with a 3.87 ERA his freshman year with 86 strikeouts in 77 innings, and 8-2 with a 5.33 ERA his sophomore season, striking out 90 in 83 innings. Last year he struck out just 63 in 72 innings and had a team-high 48 walks.

Phelps is going to rest the arm this summer, the first time he hasn’t played summer baseball since he was a kid. He’s hoping to get his pitch speed back up to where it was last summer, when he made the Cape Cod League All-Star team and enjoyed a trip to Fenway Park.

“Maybe I can hook up with a team late in the summer, but right now I think the best thing for me is rest,” said Phelps. “I want to get back to where I was last year. I had a fantastic first half in the Cape Cod League.”

Phelps watched three of his teammates get drafted last week. Kevin Munson, a Cave Spring graduate who was a catcher in high school, was drafted in the fourth round by the Arizona Diamondbacks as a pitcher. Munson was converted to a pitcher at JMU and regularly was clocked in the mid-90s on his fastball. He was 8-1 with a 1.64 ERA this year, fanning 70 in 55 innings.

“He’s one of my best friends and my roommate,” said Phelps. “I was excited for him. We all knew he was going to get drafted high.”

Mike Fabiaschi, a second baseman for the Dukes , was drafted in the 38th round by the A’s and Matt Browning, a third baseman and outfielder , was taken in the 43rd round by the Mariners. Both were seniors.

“I think another year of college baseball will be good for me,” said Phelps. “I love it here, it was one of the best decisions I ever made to come to JMU.”

And if he can rebound with a strong senior season he could climb back into the “big money” spots when the draft is held again in June of 2011.

“This may be a blessing in disguise,” said Phelps.

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