2016 Phillies Report Card: Vince Velasquez

Not one local paper seized the opportunity to use the headline “VERY VERY EXTRAORDINARY” when Vince Velasquez struck out 16 Padres en route to a three-hit shutout on April 14. No wonder the industry is on the decline. You can pin it on the internet if you want, but when you miss out on Nat “King” Cole references, you’ve no one to blame but yourself.

A highlight of his and his team’s season, VV’s early-year gem may have put unattainable expectations on the second-year hurler’s season. Set those aside, and what’s left is a very very strong year for a potential stalwart in the Phils’ approaching competitive window.

Velasquez joined the club last offseason, as the primary MLB piece in a trade that sent fire-balling closer and flat hat aficionado Ken Giles to Houston. He was several years removed from Tommy John surgery when he debuted for Houston in 2015, after skipping AAA altogether. They used him in the rotation and the bullpen as they closed out their season, and there was some speculation that The Phils might start him in AAA. A strong spring landed him in the rotation, and a Dad-dominating April afternoon cemented that position for the foreseeable future.

On the year, Velasquez was 8-6, with FIP and xFIP both under 4, with 152Ks and just 45bb in 131 IP. His K Rate was a very good 27.6% and his BB Rate was also quite good, at 8.2%. He was certainly homer prone, giving up 21, and that’s cause for some concern going forward.

Equally concerning was a start in early June where Velasquez was forced to leave after throwing just two pitches. It was called a biceps injury, and with Tommy John on our minds, we all held our collective breath. But with a couple weeks on the shelf, Vinny From Philly (do we have to?) returned to action before the end of the month and pitched through his mandated innings limit in early September.

His final line reads like a mid/back-end starter, but his upside remains higher, as his fastball shows easy velocity into the upper 90s, and he has multiple workable secondary offerings. Also, his fallback would seem to be the back of a bullpen, with likely not as dynamic a 1-2 punch as Ken Giles’ FB/SL combo, but potentially with better control. Looking at his usage chart, you can see his main secondary varied throughout the year. He was willing to use whatever was working. Hopefully one of those will emerge as a dominant force, (the change-up seems to have been most highly regarded prior to 2016), but if not, at least he’s got options.

With some question marks coming out of 2016’s rotation, VV seems solidly entrenched in his role. Similarly, we should see Jerad Eickhoff and Jeremy Hellickson locked in, and hopefully a healthy Aaron Nola, plus whoever emerges from spring training in the #5 spot. That’s the makings of a rotation worth watching every day. Eickhoff may have had the most consistent 2015, but it’s Velasquez who was the most impressive to me.

Grade: A-

 

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9 comments

  1. Don

    December 12, 2016 04:25 PM

    VV was indeed exciting. Although advanced stats don’t like him (nor conventional stats, for that matter), I thought Efflin showed the most promise, pitchability.

    • Dave

      December 12, 2016 09:36 PM

      I curious about what advanced (and conventional) stats don’t like VV? He was worth 2.2 fWAR, which placed him ~69th among MLB SPs (with at least 50ip)… tied with Matt Moore and Zack Greinke, both of whom pitched more innings than VV.

      Also, VV’s xFIP was 3.67, good for #32 in MLB (same group: SPs with min 50ip)… between Julio Urias at 3.66, and Jake Arrieta at 3.68.

      VV k’d 10.4 batters per 9ip. He went 8-6 for a bad team. The guy was a lights out stud at times, and clearly the pitcher with the highest ceiling on this team (in my opinion).

      The only thing he needs to do is not get hurt, and pitch more innings.

      I like Zach Eflin, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what he can do now that he has his knee issues resolved. But I don’t consider him close to VV as a prospect at present.

  2. tenlongyears

    December 12, 2016 05:32 PM

    Here’s to hoping Velasquez can be a solid TOR starting pitcher for years to come.

  3. Romus

    December 12, 2016 08:40 PM

    I wonder if the Phillies are getting inquiries on his availability from other teams.
    If so, what could he bring back in return value would be interesting since he is cost controlled and young..
    Rumors had it that the Rangers were interested in him a few months ago, but have not heard anything more since.

    • Wade

      December 12, 2016 08:55 PM

      I always thought it is almost impossible to trade a prospect/young player for another team’s prospects/young player. Unless both teams have extreme log jams at a certain position that they’d like to resolve or the trade involves mutual swaps of “change of scenery” players, there’s really no point in trading prospects for prospects. Would we get 3 or 4 single A guys to “get younger?” What’s the point of trading a 1st year potential star for a rebuilding team? Contenders probably don’t want to throw a 1st year guy right into the pennant race, anyhow. I just can’t see it happening.

      • Andrew R.

        December 12, 2016 09:37 PM

        I will agree that at some point you have to keep certain pieces to be your foundation moving forward. But suppose you could trade VV to Texas for Nomar Mazara and Jurickson Profar? At some point you have to consider it. Or if a package of Gallo and Mazara, that would have to be considered as well, I would think.

        VV is a very nice piece. We are all cautiously optimistic about his health. He’s a potential top of the rotation arm, but he needs polish. There’s also no guarantee he will ever find it. I think he’s a piece for the trading block, but if nothing happens, oh well, we still have an electric piece.

      • Steve

        December 12, 2016 10:55 PM

        Hmm, i just dont see them giving up Mazara and Profar, and im really hesitant to put my stock in Gallo. If the deal blows you away, i would move VV, but i dont see any urgancy to move him.
        My (realistic) hope is for VV and Nola to develop in to good upper-mid rotation arms, call them your 2 and 3 SP. Eickhoff to continue to be durable, while gaining experience and consistancy to become a good middle rotation arm. I think he can be a very strong option if he’s 4th on your depth chart. The 5 slot can be filled cheaply by Thompson, Eflin, or many of the other young AA and AAA arms. Hopefully one or two reach their potential and become legitimate mid-rotation guys who can give you 160-180 quality innings. This is very strong from your 5th SP. You buy an ace, and you still have a very young cost controlled roation with a lot of talent.

      • Andrew R.

        December 13, 2016 07:17 AM

        Steve- I don’t think they’d make that trade either. I said “suppose” it were to be offered. I was replying to Wades comments about trading youth for youth and how it didn’t make sense.

      • Romus

        December 13, 2016 10:02 AM

        A lot of GM’s now use analytics and the metric guidelines for factors in decision making.
        Rule of thumb for starters after TJ…..800-900 innings before effectiveness begins their slide, especially in velo loss.
        With Velasquez, TJ was prior to 2011 season… he has pitched approx. 475 innings since his surgery.
        Under that analytical scenario….he probably has 2/3 years @ approx. 180/200 innings per year before he starts his decline.
        If Klentak knows this, so do the other 29 or so other GMs.
        So it is a risk/rewards situation.

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