Phillies Mailbag: Prospects, Relievers, Velasquez
We are back once again with a Phillies mailbag. While the Sixers and Flyers are busy playing playoff games, the Phillies have been on a roll over the last week, going 5-1 since last week's mailbag. Ask us a question at anytime on the 97.3 ESPN textboard or on Twitter at @FrankKlose.
Now that Kingery is here, who is the next Phillies prospect to make the jump from Triple-A to the major leagues?
The Phillies for years had several prospects on the cusp of becoming major leaguers. However, this year's starting lineup featured many from the former prospect lists. Even the 2018 Top 10 Phillies prospect list on MLB.com had three players who are now with the Phillies in Scott Kingery, J.P. Crawford and Jorge Alfaro.
In terms of bigger names, it might be a while before the Phillies get to see who will be one of the Top 10 prospects when the MLB Pipeline is updated. But the Phillies have some useful players at Triple-A who we will likely see sooner or later.
On the 40-man roster already are pitchers Drew Anderson and Zac Curtis, infielder Jesmuel Valentin and outfielders Dylan Cozens and Roman Quinn. Zach Eflin remains at Triple-A but may not necessarily have the "prospect" status he once had. Any of the above may get an opportunity should there be an injury, but none are really considered top propsects.
Tom Eshelman is pitching at Triple-A and is not on the 40-man roster, making it seem like he will not be one of the earlier names called. But if there is a need down the line, he may pitch his way into consideration. Enyel De Los Santos is not on the 40-man roster but probably needs more time at Triple-A despite a strong start.
Any of the players above could end up being useful pieces, but whoever comes up next is not likely to be doing so as an impact player. Eshelman may be the brightest and make his way into the rotation permanently, but there is still a ways to go. The big names people have waited for are in the big leagues now: enjoy them!
Who do the Phillies send down when Neshek and Hunter return?
The Phillies have gotten good news on both Tommy Hunter and Pat Neshek. The duo was to be the veteran presence in a young Phillies bullpen, but neither has thrown a pitch for the Phillies. Some of the young replacements are pitching really well, which will make it interesting.
One reliever, Victor Arano, has thrown to 22 batters so far this season. All 22 he has retired, including three in a 1-2-3, three-pitch inning on Monday night against the Atlanta Braves. Add in the five batters he retired to end 2017, one may say he has pitched the reliever perfect game. Arano should stay.
Meanwhile, Yacksel Rios has yet to allow a run in his six appearances and has picked up two wins. Summoned ahead of his time, perhaps, he may be the arm to be optioned to the minor leagues even though it might not seem fair.
The fall man for one spot might be Drew Hutchison. Hutchison made the Phillies as a long reliever, and while he has had his moments, he has allowed three runs in his five outings for an early ERA of 5.79. The bigger problem is that Hutchison does not seem to be used in higher-leverage situations, which could indicate where they place him.
Hutchison cannot be optioned to the minor leagues, so the Phillies would have to remove him from the 40-man roster and risk losing him, though he could accept an assignment at Triple-A if he clears waivers. The Phillies could clear a 40-man spot with such a move.
The Phillies will need another spot when Mark Leiter, Jr. is ready, too. What a good problem to have.
Has Vince Velasquez turned the corner?
When the 2018 season began, it seemed like starter Vince Velasquez was destined for more of the same. Velasquez's first start was a two and two-thirds inning clunker that included giving up seven runs, five earned. The short start exacerbated the problem of a tired bullpen and it seemed like Velasquez might never make it.
But since, Velasquez has been very good.
Velasquez's second start was a six-inning, one-run start against the Marlins in the 20-1 Phillies rout in Miami. Velasquez's third start came this past Friday in St. Petersburg, where he limited the Tampa Bay Rays to one run in six and two-thirds innings as the Phillies went on to defeat the Rays.
Maybe it's the State of Florida that does Velasquez well, or maybe he is indeed turning the corner. But it realistically is too early to make a final determination as to what it means for Velasquez.
Velasquez always says the right things: he recognizes the need to be efficient with his pitches and go deeper into ballgames. To do so, he must rely less on the strikeout and more on the defense behind him to make some plays when the opposition makes contact.
On Saturday in St. Petersburg, he seemed to be looking more comfortable as the opposition made contact. Velasquez struck out seven, but did not seem to be angling for the strikeout as much. These are good signs going forward. But it is really still too early to tell for sure.