Depending on what style of Baseball league you join, positional players may have various appeal when filling out your roster. In some cases, contact hitters may be held to a higher standard than pure power swatters or speed and contact may reign supreme. Even as we try and determine which bat is the right one to own, a dominant Ace on the mound will always be the crown jewel of any Fantasy Franchise.
Over the last several weeks, I decided to break down the 2017 Phillies’ projected roster and determine which players would be beneficial to fantasy owners. So far, we have touched on Tommy Joseph and Maikel Franco, but now it is time to look at some of the guys on the other side of the barrel. I decided to take a look at the Phillies’ rotation and break down which players could serve as useful draft picks in the upcoming drafts. The Phillies have a deep stable of lively arms, but would any serve as a true fantasy prospect?
Over the last couple years, the Phillies have shifted from a top of the line BMW to a metal frame on the assembly line. With new management in place, they had to decide on the best move forward and in 2015 they decided to take a big step. The question lingering in the offseason was Who on the roster could serve as some value and net the biggest return? That answer was a logical choice in Ken Giles. However, it still wasn’t an easy decision to trade a potential All-Star closer for a package of young talent that would serve as building blocks for the future.
In a move that brought some mixed reaction at the time, the Phillies made the decision to ship Giles’ 100-mile-per-hour arm to the Astros for the package detailed below.
Phillies: Mark Appel, Harold Arauz, Thomas Eshelman, Brett Oberholtzer, and Vincent Velasquez
Astros: Ken Giles, Jonathan Arauz
This was a questionable move at the time for both organizations who were moving in different directions. Houston was hoping they were adding the next Billy Wagner to a core of talent ready to contend, while the Phillies conceded to the loss column already and were ready to rebuild. One of the wild cards of that deal was Vincent Velasquez and only time would tell if he could produce.
For a team that lost their ace in Cole Hamels and a Hall of Famer in Roy Halladay, they were sorely lacking an arm to get excited about. That was until Velasquez flashed a mere image of brilliance in his second start of 2016 when he struck out 16 batters in a complete game, three-hit shutout. It was at that time when the Phillies and their fans knew there was hope.
Being a pitcher in Major League Baseball takes a constant work ethic, which equipped with the desire to win, is the perfect formula for success. With any young pitcher, there are flaws, and Velasquez was not immune to his mistakes. One of his biggest issues was pitching late into games. He often struggled with pitch control and consistency, which prevented his efforts to be standing on the mound late into each contest. His high pitch counts and lack of ground balls would fatigue him sooner than hoped in a game, while power hitters preyed on his pitches left up in the zone.
After the 2016 season, Velasquez knew he had to improve his pitching to contact. While he continued to strike out an unprecedented amount of batters – 10.44 batters per nine innings – his missed spots caused his pitch count to skyrocket. Part of being an effective starting pitcher is being efficient, which Velasquez has struggled to do so far in his time in Philadelphia.
According to Fangraphs , Velasquez gave up home runs on 14.9% of the fly balls he allowed and allowed more fly balls than any other type of batted ball at 41.2%. It’s safe to say in 2017 he will have to induce more ground balls if he wants to stay effective. His curveball may be just what he needs and has been a focal point in the offseason. He vowed to himself and his team that his best effort would be put forward to perfect this much needed wrinkle, which continued to put a crease in his starts.
“It was a good pitch to use, but I didn’t really use it as much as I should have. I really didn’t command it as much. I’m trying to lock in on one target and try to hit that every time. I utilized it a lot in the offseason in bullpens. I’m trying to master it as much as I can. I know it’s a good out pitch to use, but I also have a high percentage of getting guys out with my regular fastball. If I can move up and down in the zone, getting ahead of guys and putting guys away with it, then I’m definitely going to use it.”
Velasquez was one of the Phillies’ best pitchers in 2016, striking out 152 batters in 131 innings before being shut down to protect his arm. His arsenal of pitches made him a trending story on several shows and social media sites. He makes us forget about Ken Giles with every pitch he throws. If his Spring Training trip is productive and he can stay healthier than Joel Embiid, the sky will be the limit for his production.
In a fantasy perspective, an elite pitcher profile is tallied up with more than just wins. The strikeout factor is one of the true tests of a consistent scorer. If you look at the comparison below, Velasquez has a bright future ahead for the Phillies and fantasy owners alike. That being said, Velasquez will be hanging out in the mid rounds and being able to pick up a pitcher of his caliber at that spot in the upcoming drafts would certainly be ideal.
Vincent Velasquez in 31 starts……210 Strikeouts…..(This is based on 31 career starts)
Chris Sale in 32 starts…….233 Strikeouts (2016)
Noah Syndergaard in 30 starts……218 Strikeouts (2016)
Based on the comparison above, if he can stay healthy, he will have every opportunity to turn in a strong 2017 campaign that could put him in the mix with the top pitchers of the game. Do you think he can be a true #1?
As always you can stop by my Facebook page (FantasySportsAddiction) or tweet me (@TCutillo23) for questions or some nice fantasy debates. I can also be heard weekly via the internet stream live at WengRadio every Monday at 4:00pm EST for a weekend sports wrap. But most importantly, you can catch me here at Pi!