As baseball's offseason takes shape, we will take a look at each player on the Phillies 2020 roster and where they fit in the future. We'll go through the roster by uniform number, lowest to highest for position players, highest to lowest for pitchers, and alternate daily.
Today: Starting pitcher Vince Velasquez
The hard-throwing right-hander was a second-round pick of the Houston Astros in 2010 and a Tommy John surgery survivor early in his career. He debuted with the Astros in 2015 then spent the next five seasons tantalizing Phillies fans with his raw stuff but ultimately leaving them frustrated with his unfulfilled potential.
Velasquez thrilled Phillies fans with a dazzling three-hit, no-walk, 16-strikeout shutout of the San Diego Padres on April 14, 2016. That gem came in his second start with the Phillies and left everyone believing the pitcher was going to be an impact talent.
While the start was certainly something to remember, it has proven to be an outlier as Velasquez has struggled with consistency, the ability to command the strike zone, keep his pitch count in check, get beyond the middle innings and hang on to his job in the rotation. In five seasons with the Phils, he is 27-34 with a 4.76 ERA. He has averaged under five innings in 106 career big-league starts and been reluctant to embrace assignment to the bullpen, where he might be best suited.
How he became a Phillie
Velasquez joined the Phillies from Houston in Matt Klentak’s first big trade as general manager in December 2015. He came to the Phillies as the centerpiece of the deal along with pitchers Mark Appel, Brett Oberholtzer, Tom Eshelman and Harold Arauz, none of whom made an impact with the Phillies. Reliever Ken Giles went to Houston in the deal. He saved 61 games and won a World Series ring in three seasons with the Astros. Advantage Houston.
It started with typical promise. Velasquez bonded with new pitching coach Bryan Price in spring training, embraced the idea of pitching down as well as up (which was his focus in 2019) in the zone, added a nice cutter to his mix and won the fifth starter’s job with a good showing in summer camp.
The season got going and Velasquez was the same inconsistent pitcher. He posted a 5.56 ERA and a 1.559 WHIP in 34 innings. As a starter, he allowed five homers and seven doubles in 31 innings and pitched to a 5.52 ERA.
What lies ahead
Velasquez turns 29 in June. He is eligible for salary arbitration again this winter and is getting expensive as it relates to his production. His contract called for him to make $3.6 million in 2019 — salaries were ultimately prorated because of the pandemic — and projects to vault over $4 million in 2021.
The Phillies’ patience with Velasquez may have finally run out. Though this team cannot afford to throw away pitching depth, it’s not difficult to envision the club declining a contract offer to Velasquez on Dec. 2 and letting him become a free agent. Maybe the next team will be able to unlock Velasquez’s potential. Or maybe a shortage of pitching will convince the Phillies to give him one more shot. Stay tuned.
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