Friday, March 10, 2017

The Live Arm: 2017 Player Preview for Vincent Velasquez

If Vincent Velasquez ever puts it together, he's going to be a force in the National League East.
The young gun showed a ton of promise early in 2016, rolling out to an 8-2 mark and a 3.15 ERA by the end of his 16th start with 98 strikeouts in 85 2/3 innings pitched. If he ever puts those numbers up over a full season, the Phillies will be exceptionally lucky.
The problem is that Velasquez put up a 0-4 record with a 5.96 ERA over his final seven starts and had to justifiably be shut down because of an innings limit.
This is the fifth in a series to preview the 2017 Philadelphia Phillies. The previous post in the series covered Jerad Eickhoff. This post looks at what to expect from the live arm of Vincent Velasquez.

The right-hander should look to improve in two areas of his game in 2017. If he can pull them off, the Phillies will be in good shape. The Phillies should be able to count on Vasquez for about 150 innings.

More innings pitched

Last year, Velasquez compiled his 131 innings over 24 starts. That was 5.45 frames per start. It's more important that Velasquez proves to go deeper into his starts than it is that he makes more starts. Not including the start he left after getting just one out, Velasquez didn't make it into the sixth inning in nine of his 24 starts. That's 37.5 percent. If you add the injury game, he didn't make it into the sixth inning in more than 41 percent of his starts.
That's unacceptable.
Getting more innings in Let's say Velasquez starts 25 games this season. As a 24-year-old, he completed seven innings or more just three times in 2016. Again, that's gotta improve.
Let's say Velasquez again has one complete game in 2017, but also pitches into the eighth inning one more time. Then add three more starts of 7-plus frames. So over five starts, he completes 38 innings.
Let's say he has another 13 starts in which he completes six frames. Combine that with the previous five starts we disgussed and he's got 116 over 18 starts.
Add in four starts of five innings and he's got 136 frames over 22 starts. He's a young kid and we figure he has three starts in which he averages 3 innings. That's 145 innings over 25 starts. Sprinkle in the times he's pulled mid inning, and there's a good chance he's probably got 150 innings over those 25 starts. That pulls him up to an average of 6 innings a start.

Fewer pitches per inning

Because he strikes out so many batters, Velasquez will always through a ton of pitches. Last year, he threw 2,213 in his 131 frames. That's 16.8 pitches per frame.
Compare that with some other high usage, but more effective arms.
Justin Verlander threw 3,668 pitches in 227.2 innings. That's 16.1 pitches per frame.
Corey Kluber threw 3,189 pitches in 215 innings, That's 14.8 pitches per frame.
Carlos Martinez threw 3,027 pitches in 195.1 innings. That's  15.5 pitches per frame.
It's possible that Velasquez can be someone like Chris Tilllman, who throws about 17 innings a frame and still makes an All Star team. But if Velasquez can tick that number down a bit, he'll be much more efficient.
Velasquez isn't as prone to the walk as one would think. He gave up just 3.1 per nine last season. If he can remain consistent with that, but also get a few quicker outs, he'll be in good shape.
Batter's swung at the first pitch in 59.8 percent of plate appearances. The MLB average last year was 60.4. He's not far off, but he's off. Getting slightly above that, maybe 61 percent, would likely mean a few quicker outs a start.

Velasquez has the stuff to be a lights out closer or a fairly decent starting pitcher. This year will let the Phillies know which one he's more likely to become.

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