Jun 21, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA;
Former Houston Astros pitcher Velasquez (67) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field.
(Photo Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports)
VINCENT VELASQUEZ – OUTSIDE SHOT
Vincent Velasquez is considered the prize of the Ken Giles trade that landed the previously mentioned Oberholtzer and Appel, as well as pitchers Thomas Eshelman and Harold Arauz. Velasquez was ranked as the Astros’ 4th-best prospect following the 2014 season.
He was selected by Houston in the 2nd round of the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft out of Garey High School in Pomona, California. Last season, Velasquez was nearly unhittable for AA Corpus Christi before getting his first call-up to the bigs.
In nine games (five starts), the 23-year old righthander was 4-0 with a fantastic 1.91 ERA. Featuring a mid-to-high 90s fastball and sharp, drop-off-the-table curveball, Velasquez struck out 45 batters in 33 innings.
While he was unable to repeat that level of success following his June 10th big league promotion, he did acquit himself well. Splitting time as both a starter and a reliever, Velasquez went 1-1 with 4.37 ERA in 55.2 innings while fanning 58 opposition batters.
Velasquez may be more suited for a relief role as he continues to develop in his career, and could even take over the closer’s role at some point. However, the Phillies will give him a chance a chance to start at least in the beginning.
If he struggles in spring training, the Phillies are likely to send him down to AAA Lehigh Valley for more seasoning. It is unlikely that he will make the big league starting rotation at this point, with other commitments the Phils appear to have made to other pitchers.
Beyond those mentioned here, top pitching prospects Appel and Jake Thompson, as well as other developing arms such as Zach Eflin, Franklyn Kilome, and Ben Lively will continue to develop in the minor leagues. It would not be a surprise if at least two of those arms are pushing for a Phillies role by the end of the 2016 campaign.
As it stands now, the projected rotation when the team leaves Clearwater 14 weeks from now is most likely to consist of Nola as the club’s #1 starter, followed in some order by Hellickson, Eickhoff, Oberholtzer and Morton.
Nola and Eickhoff will get the opportunity to build on their strong first impressions, Hellickson and Morton will look to re-define themselves, and Oberholtzer will get a chance to show that he can be a contributor at the major league level.
This is without a doubt an upgrade from the past year’s starting pitching rotation that featured the likes of Harang, Williams, Chad Billingsley, Sean O’Sullivan, Severino Gonzalez, and David Buchanan at one time or another. The starting pitching upgrade is the main reason I believe the Phils will be a much improved team in 2016.