Now that the Phillies have rounded out their staff, it’s time to focus on roster decisions. Chief among them should be how to utilize strikeout pitcher Vince Velasquez. Velasquez has proven he has more than enough talent and poise to make it at the major league level, but the question is in what capacity?
Although Velasquez possesses electric stuff, he has really struggled to put batters away quickly and manage his pitch count. In fact, Velasquez only pitched six or more innings twice in fifteen starts this past season. Not only was it difficult for the hard-throwing righty to make it deep into ball games, but he got progressively worse as the game wore on.
Velasquez’s ERA and opponent batting average both spiked from the first time through the order to the third, and it was obvious that he just didn’t have the same juice late in games he flashed early. This was the third consecutive season that this has been an issue, and it’s fair to wonder if a move to the bullpen would be best for both Velasquez and the Phils.
I think Velasquez has the potential to be an all-star closer if given the opportunity. His high velocity and strikeout rate makes him an ideal candidate to come out and shut the door in the ninth inning. A move to the pen would also severely decrease his pitch count, which should allow him to remain efficient throughout the course of the season. The Phillies would be wise to at least experiment this idea since they enough young arms to keep the starting rotation afloat without Velasquez and are still unsure of who the closer of the future is.
This isn’t to say that Velasquez won’t figure things out as a starter, but at this point it seems unlikely. If his talents will be maximized out of the pen the Phils simply have to make this move.
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