Phillies: The evolution of Vince Velasquez continues
Despite his record, Vince Velasquez has shown remarkable signs of improvement for the Phillies.
Drafted in the second round out of high school in the 2010 draft by the Houston Astros, the big-armed righty out of Pomona, California came to professional baseball with high expectations surrounding him. It took Vince Velasquez to the age of 23 before cracking a big-league club, recording an ERA above four in his first 19 MLB appearances in 2015 before coming to the Phillies.
Since coming over to Philadelphia, we’ve learned a lot about Velasquez; For one, we learned that his arm will play at the big-league level, and that his ceiling is high with the potential to be up in the rotation.
The questions surrounding Velasquez have been the development of his breaking pitches (he still only throws his entire breaking mix 30 percent of the time) and his lack of overall command within the strike zone, which has typically led to high pitch counts and early exits.
In 2019, however, Velasquez seems to be flipping the script, at least in certain areas. While he hasn’t gone more than six innings into a ballgame (not good), he has developed more command with his fastball, leading to sub-100 pitch counts in all his outings (very good).
Phillies color commentator Ben Davis noted in some Velasquez starts that the 27-year old is starting to realize that he doesn’t need to be pinpoint with his fastball. Because that pitch typically sits in the elite 94-96 range for a starter, Velasquez has learned to allow the pitch to move and ride into the strike zone without being overly concerned about hitting the black.
By not being concerned with painting the corner every pitch, Velasquez has become what’s known as a “zone pitcher.” You see it more often with relievers, but rather than hit every spot, Velasquez seems to be throwing to a larger zone, allowing natural movement and velocity to take over. And while this generates more contact for opposing hitters, it leads to quicker outs and more quality innings.
While Velasquez continues to lack variety in terms of pitch selection, he has used to his elite fastball to surpass those concerns.
As an aside, Velasquez has had injury problems in the past including the seemingly common Tommy John Surgery before he reached the major leagues. He has had injury issues with the Phillies, too, including four separate injuries to his throwing arm, one of which was a freak accident.
While Velasquez has temporarily silenced much of the previous criticism leveled against him, it remains to be seen if he’ll be able to put together a truly complete season, such as the season Aaron Nola had a year ago.
But with front-line potential and a sturdy head on his shoulders, Velasquez may have finally found the formula to be more consistent and put himself in the mix for a playoff rotation spot.