Does Vince Velasquez have what it takes to be the Phillies ace?

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Jul 3, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Vince Velasquez (28) throws a pitch during the second inning against the Kansas City Royals at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 3, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Vince Velasquez (28) throws a pitch during the second inning against the Kansas City Royals at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /
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Vince Velasquez has shown flashes of greatness but does he possess the consistency to be the ace of the Phillies rotation?

Many things have changed for Vince Velasquez in the time passed since April 12th, 2016 and today. April 12th was the date Velasquez had Phillies fans in awe after throwing a complete game shutout against the San Diego Padres while racking up 16 strikeouts.  In just his second start as a Phillie after being acquired in the Ken Giles trade, it had seemed the Phillies had quietly acquired a potential ace.

As the season went on, Velasquez still highlighted his electric stuff; however, his inconsistency became a glaring issue.  After an impressive opening to the 2016 season with a 1.78 era in  April, Velasquez had an era of 5.12 for the month of May, sandwiched between another exciting month where he had an era of 1.86 in June.

Velasquez’s worst month came in August where he compiled an era of 7.52, before finishing off the year with a 2.57 era in September in his lone start to close out the 2016 season. The final stats for Velasquez in 2016 would be a 4.12 era, with 152 strikeouts in 131 innings pitched, equating to a 10.44 K/9 rate.

Philadelphia Phillies
Philadelphia Phillies /

Philadelphia Phillies

The stuff is there; he has elite strikeout potential when he is on his game.  Padres manager Andy Green highlighted this notion with his quote after the dominant performance of Velasquez against his team.

He was impressive. There’s riding life in the zone with his fastball. It was explosive. Reminds me of when I saw Scherzer going as well as he goes, and that fastball is literally exploding through the zone.” – Andy Green

However, Velasquez is Jekyll and Hyde like out there on the mound.  You don’t know which pitcher is going to show up for each start, as evidenced by his ups and downs in 2016, and his start to 2017.

Many fans are looking for a glimpse of hope that the Velasquez that they saw in the early months of the season wasn’t just an aberration, pointed to the fact that he had never pitched a full season in the majors, attributing the potential decline in production to fatigue.  The Phillies front office seemed to share some of the same beliefs as they limited his innings as the year went on before eventually shutting him down early.

Unfortunately, the 2017 season so far has spelled much of the same for Vinny, as he has shown the inability to control his pitches on his way to a 6.33 era in the first month of the season, already allowing six home runs.

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The most glaring part of his struggles has been the decline of his strikeout numbers. After picking up where he left off regarding punch outs with 10 in his 1st start of 2017 and 7 in his 2nd, he only recorded five combined in the next two starts, wrapping up April with 22 total strikeouts in 21.1 innings, which is good for an 8.89 k/9 rate.

Last night, Velasquez rebounded in his first start in May, with a five-inning outing against the defending world champions, striking out 5 and giving up one earned run.  While many good signs were shown in this outing, the outing did not go as smoothly as the box score would indicate as Velasquez reached 98 pitches in only five innings.

After just over a year as a Phillie starter, it is impossible to tell what will happen to Velasquez as his career progresses. He is frustrating to watch as one inning you can see him at the highest of highs striking out the side, and then following that up by giving up two home runs the next inning.

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The jury is still out on the young righty; however one thing is for sure, while he has the K upside and electric stuff to have the makings of an ace, all of that will go to waste if he does not learn soon how to become more consistent.

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