Phillies Frank’s Mailbag: Vince Velasquez and Nick Williams
It's time for another Phillies Mailbag. We answer your Phillies questions and discuss them on the Sports Bash with Mike Gill every Tuesday at 2:30.
What should the Phillies expect from Vince Velasquez the rest of the season? Is he an ace?
Velasquez certainly pitched one of the more dominant performances than the Phillies have seen in some time. With 16 strikeouts, no walks, and just three hits, the complete game shutout was the talk of MLB afterward. What we should take away from this start is the tools that Velasquez has.
After an offseason in which many fans decried the trade that sent reliever Ken Giles and shortstop Jonathan Arauz to the Houston Astros for a package that included Velasquez, Mark Appel, Brett Oberholtzer, and Thomas Eschelman, seeing instant results sure makes Phillies fans breathe a little bit easier. What we know from Velasquez so far is that he has a lively fastball and can locate it in a way that makes hitters look silly. Velasquez recorded those strikeouts mostly on fastballs.
What will determine the difference between Velasquez being a really good pitcher who can put forth a dominant start now and then and from an ace will depend on his longevity and stamina. The biggest sign of a pitcher's fatigue is his velocity. Should Velasquez be able to pitch every fifth day and keep up the velocity, he has a chance to be very special. Locating his pitches and avoiding walks will also help his efficiency and throw fewer pitches will take him deep into games.
In this, Velasquez's first season as a starter, the Phillies probably will monitor his workload. So, the rest of the season I think we will see him grow into a starter, but I would caution about expecting a dominant performance every time out. His is the first time his body is going to be throwing this many pitches in a season and he may have to still acclimate to it.
Is Nick Williams an option to add some offense to this Phillies lineup?
The Phillies have a very talented player in Nick Williams. Currently at AAA Lehigh Valley, Williams is so close that Phillies fans know he will be knocking on the door. But, we should not expect to see Williams anytime soon.
For one, Williams is off to a very slow start. 30 at-bats into the season, Williams is batting just .167. While some of baseball's best minor league pitching talent is very raw and at AA, AAA has plenty of former Major League pitchers who are more advanced, but perhaps not at the level that warrants more time at the Major Leagues. These are the types of pitchers what will present a new challenge to someone like Williams.
Williams probably will have to demonstrate that there is no more room for growth at AAA before the Phillies call him up. Right now, Williams needs to show he can hit that level's pitching. If Williams is batting .330 in July or August, it would be clear that there's no more development left to be had at that level and the Phillies might consider it.
For now, Williams will be left alone to develop. The Phillies called up outfielder David Lough instead to try to help their offense. At least Lough has showed that he can hit Major League pitching at a .250 clip in his career. If Williams came up and struggled, there is no gain involved for the Phillies or for Williams' development.
Does Tommy Joseph ever have a chance at making the Major Leagues?
Tommy Joseph is an interesting name. The Phillies had high hopes for Joseph when they traded Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for Joseph and Seth Rosin. Had all gone according to plan, Joseph would have been the Phillies starting catcher by now.
But, repeated concussions really forced Joseph to give up catching. I was calling for him to get out from behind the plate prior to last season, when he had once again been hurt. Head injuries really take a toll on players, as we have been increasingly learning in recent years.
So, Joseph appeared in Spring Training with a first baseman's mitt. So far, Joseph has impressed in the early going in 2016. Through 20 at bats, Joseph is batting .300 with one home run, two doubles, and three runs batted in. It is a small sample size, but it is encouraging.
Including Joseph in some Major League Spring Training games and in the Futures Game seemed like nothing more than a courtesy. The Pence trade was almost four years ago - which makes it seem like Joseph has been around for a long time. But Joseph is just 24 years old (turning 25 in July), even after all the missed time.
Should the Phillies have an injury to first baseman Darin Ruf or Ryan Howard, the Phillies may very well consider Joseph if he is performing at a high level. Without the physical toll that he experienced at catcher, Joseph can focus first and foremost on hitting. Joseph hit well in the minors before injuries caught up to him. While Joseph is not in the Phillies' immediate plans, an injury could lead to him getting a chance.