30 Players in 30 Days: Vince Velasquez
A 2nd-round pick of the 2010 MLB Draft, Vincent Velasquez paved a long road to reach the 2015 Houston Astros. Drafted straight out of high school, the 6’3″ right-hander has dealt with many injuries – including Tommy John surgery that cost him all of his 2011 seasons. In 2015, Velasquez missed the month of April with a strained lat injury but burst onto the scene at Double-A with Corpus Christi in May.
Velasquez had thrown in only five games above Single-A ball before the Astros decided to call him up to bolster their rotation in June. In those five games with Corpus Christi, he surrendered only four earned runs in 26 1/3 innings (1.37 ERA) while recording 37 strikeouts.
On June 10, Velasquez made his major league debut on the road against the Chicago White Sox and flashed what he is capable of: 5 IP, 0 ER, 5 Ks, 3 H, and 4 BB. His second start did not go quite as smoothly though as he was touched up by the Colorado Rockies for five runs in 4 2/3 innings.
Velasquez did not pick up his first decision as a starter until his sixth career start – a loss to the Cleveland Indians in which he only allowed two runs over 6 2/3 innings. On July 21, In his seventh (and final) start for the Astros in 2015, Velasquez earned his first career win against the Boston Red Sox, scattering seven hits and three runs across six innings.
Scott Feldman‘s return from injury and the trade for Mike Fiers soon after bumped Velasquez from the rotation. Velasquez threw in two relief appearances on July 26 and Aug. 1 before the Astros optioned him to Double-A to limit his innings and make room for Fiers.
Back in Corpus Christi, Velasquez appeared in four games over a two-week period before rejoining the major league club on Aug. 20 for the remainder of the season.
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Velasquez became a power arm out of the bullpen for the Astros down the stretch but made only ten relief appearances from Aug. 23 until the end of the season in October. He allowed an earned run in five of those games, mostly in a long relief role.
His worst month came in September and likely cost him a shot at making the playoff rotation. Over six appearances in the month, Velasquez surrendered nine runs, 12 hits, and six walks in just 9 1/3 innings.
What to expect in 2016
The young righty has the potential to be – at worst – a reliable arm out of the bullpen. His rise this season paralleled that of the Astros as it came much earlier than expected. According to Statcast, Velasquez’s four-seam fastball averaged a speed of 95 MPH and will become more of a weapon if he continues to develop his secondary pitches.
Velasquez will compete to earn the fifth spot in the rotation or a bullpen role in the spring, but don’t be surprised if he begins the year at Triple-A in Fresno.