Vincent Velasquez Completely Shuts Down the Padres

If you aren’t already familiar with Vincent Velasquez, you inevitably will be very soon.

On Tuesday afternoon against the Padres, Velasquez absolutely dominated San Diego’s lineup, allowing just three hits and striking out 16 batters over the course of his complete game shutout, in which Velasquez received 27 swings and misses. This following his first outing of the season, where Velasquez struck out nine over six innings, giving up no runs, it would appear that he’s already in midseason form. Phillies

Velasquez has now struck out twenty-five batters in just fifteen innings of work, and subsequently holds the new record for a Phillies pitcher of most combined K’s in their first two starts of the season, previously set at 20 back in 1964.

Originally a product of the Astros, getting drafted by them in the second round of the 2010 draft, Velasquez came to Philadelphia as part of the Ken Giles trade this past offseason. To this point, it would appear to be a great move on the part of Philadelphia (especially with Giles getting off to a slow start with Houston).

But Velasquez’s career hasn’t been a smooth ride to the top.

Back in 2011, Velasquez underwent Tommy John surgery (an all too common procedure at this point), forcing him to miss the entire 2011 season. In addition to the injuries, once Velasquez finally did make it to the major leagues, he didn’t immediately post the type of numbers he has recently, notching a 4.37 ERA over 19 total games pitched and 7 starts in 2015, leaving many to question him moving forward.

However, Velasquez appears ready to take off.

It certainly can’t come soon enough for Philadelphia, who has been fairly pathetic in recent years. While they dominated their opponents for a number of years in a row not too long ago, they have been in the process of rebuilding over the past few Francoseasons But other than Velasquez, the Phillies’ pitching staff merely consists of standouts Aaron Nola and Jeremy Hellickson — nothing close to resembling their rotation of 2011 that included Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay.

Likewise, the Phillies lack a good, intimidating lineup, currently possessing very little power threats within it. With Ryan Howard no longer the slugger he once was, and seemingly on his last stretch with Philly, Maikel Franco is truly the only major power threat available of what was once an efficient offensive machine.

But there is help on the way, with the Phillies holding seven of the top 100 prospects in baseball throughout their farm systems. Pitching-wise, the Phillies have guys such as Jake Thompson and Mark Appel in Triple-A, both of which are ready to help very soon. Hitting-wise, J.P. Crawford and Nick Williams are coming fast, and should be contributing to the run scoring in Philadelphia before too long.

With the win on Thursday afternoon, the Phillies have now won three straight, and five of their last six, keeping their overall record for the season at .500 (5-5). Inevitably, however, the Phillies will taper out of contention as the year goes on, and as other teams begin to figure things out, ultimately finishing at or near the bottom of the National League East division.

Even so, once every fifth day, Phillies fans will be reminded by Velasquez that their club is well on their way to transforming back into a contender once again, as it was for so many years not so long ago. Rebuilding is a process that takes time, as well as patience on both the part of the team and the fans.

But as Vincent Velasquez proved on Tuesday, the rebuild is getting closer to completion.

My Vote for 2014 N.L. Rookie of the Year

As I stated in my American League Rookie of the Year post, watching young players succeed upon their first year in the majors is always fun. Though it never guarantees that any given player will carry that early success throughout their career, it’s always a good indication of which players are going to be stars for years to come. We certainly had a fair share of those type of players in the National League this season, with players such as Ken Giles, Jeurys Familia, Billy Hamilton and Jacob deGrom all having seasons worthy of recognition. However, in the end, only one player can win the coveted Rookie of the Year award. Untitled

Ken Giles came up in June for the Phillies and was terrific through the rest of the season. Over 44 games pitched, Giles posted a 1.18 ERA and limited batters to a .164 batting average against. With the poor season the Phillies had as a whole, Giles was one of the few players you could count on night in and night out. And thus, he should be one of their biggest bullpen pieces moving forward. However, while he had a tremendous rookie campaign, not pitching the entire season and being a reliever hurts Giles, taking away his chances of the R.O.Y. award.

Another dominant reliever who spent the entire year in the big leagues was Jeurys Familia, who isn’t exactly a household name but will be a potential star for years. Familia, like the previously mentioned Giles, was one of the few bright spots on his team (the Mets), posting a 2.21 ERA over the course of 77.1 innings pitched. Though he didn’t strike out a ton of guys through the season, he was still very effective at getting batters out, and deserves praise for his achievements. Still, Rookie of the Year is a bit beyond what he was able to achieve.

The player many people felt had the Rookie of the Year locked down for the National League before the season even began was the speedy Billy Hamilton. Gaining national attention after stealing a minor league record 155 bases back in 2012, Hamilton quickly earned a name for himself as one of the fastest players in the game today. But although he stole a fair share of bags this season in the big leagues, with 56, that’s not good enough, in my mind, to earn him the Rookie of the Year award, especially when it goes along with a mere .250 batting average.

For me, the player who deserves the 2014 National League Rookie of the Year award the most is the Mets’ Jacob deGrom. Though he didn’t blow away the competition like a lot of award winners do, deGrom was consistent enough all season long to earn the honor. Putting together a stat line of a 2.69 ERA over 22 games started to go along with 144 strikeouts, deGrom gave the Mets something to look forward to moving forward. Once their ace, Matt Harvey, returns in 2015, Jacob deGrom should be a strong number two starter in that rotation, likely having a Rookie of the Year award under his belt.