It’s no secret that Vince Velasquez, like ex-teammate Nick Pivetta, was on a short leash to begin the 2019 season — and his last outing certainly tugged on said proverbial leash, to say the least.
The Phillies have been, in a word, aggressive with their roster management thus far in the season, as proven in their swift optioning of the aforementioned Pivetta, as well as DFA-ing struggling outfielder, Aaron Altherr, early on in the season.
When the 2019 season began, Velasquez, to the surprise of many, was actually consistent. He showed a jump in velocity, located his stuff properly, and began to trust in his fastball — all of which were proper signs of improvement.
Yet, while he’s mended many glaring issues, his lack of durability remains the primary concern. Over 6 starts this season, Velasquez has only breached a total of 6 innings pitched once, and that outlying outing happened to be against the worst team in baseball, the Miami Marlins.
The concern in Velasquez’ consistency stems back a long way, and it has oft been of popular opinion that his eventual place lies in the bullpen.
This begs the question; were Gabe Kapler to pull the trigger on shifting Vince to the ‘pen, who, then, would be the most likely candidate to take his place?
Within the system:
LHP Cole Irvin:
Irvin has remained an absolute force in Triple-A this year. After claiming the International League Pitcher of the Year award in 2018, he’s stayed the course in 2019, posting a 2.25 ERA over 6 starts in Lehigh Valley.
Irvin has a vintage feel to his style of pitching. Rather than relying on strike-em-out movement or blazing velocity, Irvin defaults to his baseball IQ, as well as his varied mix of pitches to get guys out.
If you’re looking for an in-house, workhorse of a pitcher, Irvin is your guy. He’s consistent, dependable, and adds arm-variance to the Major League rotation. He’s certainly up for consideration.
RHP Nick Pivetta:
Oh boy, here we go again.
Yes, Pivetta, like Velasquez, has had his share of struggles in the Major Leagues — but his short stint in Triple-A has been, for the most part, a success.
As things currently stand, Pivetta has posted a 3.50 ERA over 18 innings in Lehigh, with an impressive 27 K’s to boot.
While his numbers aren’t exactly eye-popping, the young righty has begun to hone in on where his weaknesses lie, and is doing what he can to implement a changeup into his pitch mix, in hopes to aid himself against left-handed hitters. Should all go to plan, we could see the promising pitcher back in the big time quite soon.
RHP Enyel De Los Santos:
De Los Santos, who was just recently optioned back down to Triple-A, is still struggling with the long ball as he continues to progress. Enyel relinquished 4 home runs over the span of just 16 innings with the Iron Pigs in 2019 — a number that is less than encouraging. He also, however, posted a 2.81 ERA with 24 K’s over that same 16 inning span.
Many believe that, because of his awkward arm slot and limited two-pitch arsenal, EDLS’ eventual spot belongs in the bullpen. However, should he prove his ability to develop a healthy, passable third pitch, he might just have the highest ceiling of any starter in the Iron Pigs’ rotation.
Outside the system:
LHP Dallas Keuchel:
Never in one million years did I think I would be typing this mid-May, but, yes, Dallas Keuchel is still without a Major League job.
It was reported within the last week that the southpaw is still waiting on a deal that reflects his true value, and has turned down a multitude of offers that he has deemed unacceptable.
It’s quite obvious that the bulk of teams are waiting until after the 2019 MLB Draft to begin getting serious about signing Keuchel, as the primary deterrent from acquiring the lefty’s services is seemingly the attached penalty of the loss of a draft pick.
Signing Keuchel now, however, might just be the Phillies’ best shot at a dependable Free Agent pitcher for the next couple of years.
Free Agency is becoming less and less popular between players, as represented by the bevy of extensions that pitchers like Chris Sale, Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander, and more have signed early on in the 2019 season. Should they follow suit, star pitchers nearing the end of their deals, like Gerrit Cole, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Wheeler, might prefer to extend with their current clubs rather than tempting the Free Agency fates.
With Keuchel, you know exactly what you’re getting; a dependable southpaw with a heck of a track record. His talent is due to age well, and he won’t cost you any integral pieces of the farm system, just money — which the Phillies have in spades.
LHP Mike Minor
Minor is off to quite the impressive start in his 2019 campaign. The lefty has only turned in two starts under 7 frames, and, excluding his first start of the season, has pitched to a 1.43 ERA over 44 innings.
The southpaw is also under an extremely affordable contract, and is owed an annual average value of just $9.5 Million over the course of this, and next season.
Though he would come at cost of a substantial prospect of two, Minor would be an excellent addition to an already solid Phillies rotation.
LHP Madison Bumgarner
MadBum’s postseason numbers, while oft overblown, speak for themselves, and, though he’s off to a less-than-great start to the 2019 season, the Phillies have had their eyes on him for what feels like forever.
Worse comes to worse, he turns in mediocre numbers mid-season, and becomes the perfect buy-low rental candidate. Conversely, should he work out, he becomes an ideal trade-and-extend option.
He’s been on our radars since the dawn of his career, could now be the perfect time to pull the trigger on the dependable lefty?