Vince Velasquez won a rotation spot with a strong spring training and made a major impression in his second regular season start, striking out 16 in a complete game win over the Padres. In early June he went on the disabled list with a strained right biceps that initially looked like a serious issue, but ultimately only caused him to miss a few weeks of the season. He was shut down in early September, having thrown a career-high 136 innings between a rehab start and his starts in the majors. Velasquez throws a mid-90s fastball that tops out around 98 mph, which he complements with a curveball, changeup and slider. His 11.2 percent swinging strike rate ranks him among the better strikeout pitchers in baseball and gives him the potential to be a major fantasy asset. He does have some work to do on reducing the free passes, and he needs to utilize his defense a bit more to help keep his pitch count down and to get deeper into his starts.
Velasquez tossed two scoreless innings in his spring debut Wednesday. He allowed one hit, struck out one and did not walk a batter. Velasquez is working on improving his curveball this spring, according to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. The pitch wasn't very useful last season as batters hit .297 with a .591 slugging percentage against it. Velasquez has the potential to be a top-of-the-rotation pitcher, but he needs to make some strides with his overall command this season so he can pitch deeper into games. He topped six innings in a game just three times in 24 starts last year.
Velasquez is working on his curveball this spring, Matt Breen of The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. During his inconsistent and injury-shortened but often brilliant 2016, Velasquez threw his two fastballs 64.2 percent of the time, href="http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=11189&position=P">per Fangraphs, though it was less productive because his changeup failed to complement the heat. Fangraphs (9.9 percent) and PITCHf/x (13.6) differ on how often he used his curveball, likely because some sliders and hooks often look too similar to identify properly. Still, stabilizing his main breaking pitch could provide the missing piece to a bigger step forward. Though the Phillies expect to limit his innings again, Velasquez's overpowering stuff makes him a fantasy sleeper for another season.
Velasquez made his final start of the season Saturday, Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Velasquez goes out in style, allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits without a walk and striking out eight over seven innings. The 136 innings thrown at Triple-A Reading and Philadelphia this season are a career high and nearly as many he's thrown the past two seasons combined.
Velasquez allowed one run on five hits over five innings Sunday against the Mets. He struck out seven and walked one. Velasquez was pulled after 103 pitches as the Phillies continue to monitor his workload. He is expected to be capped around 150 innings, which could give him three to five more starts this season. He will face the Braves in his next start.
Velasquez allowed five runs on seven hits over six innings in a 9-0 loss to the Cardinals on Sunday. He struck out seven and walked two. Velasquez allowed two home runs Sunday and has now given up eight home runs over his last three starts. His ERA has risen to 4.31. He may have three or four more starts left this season before he reaches an innings cap. He'll face the Mets in his next start.