Vincent Velasquez has one of the most electric arms in the game for the Phillies. But, after an up and down season in 2016, what should fantasy owners expect in 2017?
Some guys just look the part. Vincent Velasquez fits that bill, as the young right possess all the tools to be one of the best pitchers in the game. But, predictably so, Velasquez had his fair share of ups and downs in his first year with the Phillies. Can fantasy owners trust the talent or expect more inconsistency in 2017?
Velasquez came over from the Astros in the Ken Giles deal during the 2015 offseason. He posted a 4.37 ERA over 55 innings with Houston in 2015, but last season would be his first season as a full-time starter in the bigs. While things did not go exactly to plan, he ended the season with a 8 W/4.12 ERA/1.32 WHIP/152 K line over 24 starts, and a career-high, 131 innings.
His career high innings total caused the Phillies to shut him down after only one start in Sep., but the rest of the season went well outside of two rough months. In April, June, and July, he did not post higher than a 3.19 ERA and had at least 28 K per month.
Fantasy owners did get a scare out of Velasquez in June, as it was thought he made need a second TJ surgery, but he avoided serious injury. His two ugly months came in May and August. In May he posted a 5.12 ERA and then an unsightly 7.52 ERA in August. When things went off the rails it was usually in spectacular fashion, he had a 7 ER outing in May and surrendered 19 ER over a three-start span in August.
Some attribute his late season struggles to him reaching his career high in innings. But, Velasquez did show his share of red flags in 2016. For one, he was not able to improve his BB rate, walking three batters a game. He also saw his HR/FB climb to 15% last season, a career worse clip. This uptick would then lead to issues with the long ball, as he yielded 21 HR and a .353 BABIP.
Some may see these numbers and be scared off of him heading into 2017. But, the potential upside is just too hard to pass up. Velasquez posted a healthy 10.44 K/9 clip last season, and if he was able to notch 30 starts, he would have easily eclipsed the 180 K mark for the Phillies.
His batted ball data was promising as well, as he posted 24% LD, 35% GB, 41% FB, 49% Med, and 32% Hard contact rates. The LD and Hard contact rates did climb based on his 2015 numbers, but he was able to cut his FB rate by over 5% while raising his GB rate by 3.5%. Add those improvements with his K ability, and it easy to see why his 3.96 FIP and 3.62 SIERA speak to a better pitcher than what owners saw.
Velasquez’s fastball sits in the mid-90s and he mostly complements it with a changeup. While batters could not muster more than a .235 AVG against his fastball last season, they were able to square up his changeup to a .379 AVG clip. He lacked a solid third pitch, allowing hitters to drive up his pitch counts by sitting on pitches.
But, Velasquez recognizes that he has to make a change and that may come in the form of his curveball. Batters did post a .279 against his curveball last season, however, he did begin to use it more towards the end of the season to keep hitters off-balance. He has two pitches that can get batters out, yet the added benefit of another pitch will do wonders.
Vincent Velasquez has the pure arm talent be a fantasy ace. While he may not put it all together next season, owners should expect a 3.80 ERA/195 K type of line from a pitcher that is currently being drafted as the 50th SP. He is being overlooked based on his mediocre 2016 stat line, but the upside is evident. Target Velasquez as a quality late round SP4 or SP5, as he is one of the rare late round SP that could develop into a true ace.