Astros’ Vincent Velasquez Flashes Mid-Rotation Upside

When our other prospect writers submit scouting reports, I will provide a short background and industry consensus tool grades. There are two reasons for this: 1) giving context to account for the writer seeing a bad outing (never threw his changeup, coming back from injury, etc.) and 2) not making him go on about the player’s background or speculate about what may have happened in other outings.

The writer still grades the tools based on what they saw, I’m just letting the reader know what he would’ve seen in many other games from this season, particularly with young players that may be fatigued late in the season. The grades are presented as present/future on the 20-80 scouting scale and very shortly I’ll publish a series going into more depth explaining these grades. -Kiley


Vincent Velasquez, RHP, Lancaster JetHawks (HOU, High-A – most recently viewed 8/20 at Lancaster)

Velasquez has been a standout talent when healthy, but he has a long history of injuries.  He had a strained ligament and stress fracture in his throwing elbow in his junior year of high school, then after going in the 2nd round and throwing 29.1 pro innings in 2010, Velasquez missed all of 2011 with Tommy John surgery.  He’s moved slowly since but appears ready to be unleashed at age 22, with a strong season so far in the High-A Cal League and an Arizona Fall League assignment announced yesterday.  Velasquez sits 91-95 with a plus changeup and a curveball that flashes average, to go with some feel to pitch.  There’s mid-rotation potential if Velasquez’s arm can handle the workload.

Fastball: 55/60, Curveball, 40/50, Changeup: 55/60, Command: 45/50+   -Kiley

It can be easy to get lost in the shuffle when spending a year on a roster littered with high profile prospects, such as Carlos Correa and Mark Appel, who garner all the national attention. But with Lancaster seeing a significant amount of roster turnover in comparison to their opening day squad, there’s been room for righty Vincent Velasquez to step up and into the spotlight.

Fastball: 60/65

Velasquez began the game working with an average fastball, sitting 91 mph while topping out at 93 mph, and showing average life on the offering. But judging by the rest of the outing, he was just warming up, as the fastball regularly sat 93-94 mph while showing 95-96 mph in the back-pocket on a handful of occasions. In terms of life, the fastball possesses late arm side movement when thrown in the lower quadrants of the zone, specifically in the plus fastball velocity band of 92-94 mph.

Velasquez did walk three batters in the game, all of which came in the fourth inning, when I was down the third base side getting a better feel for his delivery from the open side. He seemed to have trouble with his landing spot, but I couldn’t provide a definite reason for the slipup in control and command due to my angle. But when I was behind home plate, I saw an athletic pitcher pounding the zone with not only strikes, but quality strikes. Given the extreme hitter-friendly confinements of Lancaster’s ballpark, a small mistake anywhere in the zone can quickly become unforgiving. However, Velasquez kept the ball from right-handed batters and elevated he needed to without missing his spot.

I gave the offering a present plus grade as the velocity merits for it, but applied a half-grade markup on its future potential. This is because I believe the effectiveness of the fastball will return all of its grade and then some, as one would expect with a 93 mph fastball that possesses life and command.

Curveball: 40/50+

The curveball is presently a below-average offering, a result of inconsistent feel. Velasquez would too often get on the side of the ball, creating more of a short slider look. He also needs to show better command, as several breaking balls were found to be sitting over the heart of the plate.

But he showed a great deal of confidence in throwing the pitch, regardless of its result, which is a positive sign for better feel and consistency. At its best, the curveball flashed above-average potential, showing sharpness and shape with 11-5 breaking action. It doesn’t project to be an out pitch, however, because it lacks that type of hard vertical action, but there’s an average breaker in his wrist.

Changeup: 55/60

Velasquez’s changeup showed much better consistency and action in comparison to his curveball, but he didn’t throw it too often in my look. The changeup comes in at 82-83 mph and features wiffle ball action, shaking and sinking down in the zone. The ball come out of the hand with finesse and maintains his arm speed. As he did with the fastball, the changeup generated swings and misses in the zone, if it didn’t freeze the batter.

Command: 40/50+

Velasquez is already showing strong control with fastball command that isn’t lagging far behind, and it is only going to get better with more repetitions against better competition as he climbs the minor league ladder. He is an exceptional athlete on the mound with a strong feel for his delivery, so I believe he profiles to have at least average command, if not better.

In regards to the mechanics, you can find some unnecessary effort, such as a slight head dive after he releases the ball. He also strides towards the right-handed batter’s box, getting east-west with his delivery. This is creating additional effort on his arm, but is also adding the the aforementioned movement to his fastball. Though there is Tommy John surgery on his medical record, the arm action itself is clean and fluid, getting into position on time and allowing his stuff to play to its potential. He’s such a good athlete that he can control and command his stuff with this type of delivery, but it creates additional long-term health risk.

Summary

Velasquez can be somewhat of a forgotten man in Houston’s pipeline now that he’s four years removed from being a second round draft choice in 2010, but he is still only 22 years of age and looking like a mid-rotation starter. He is showing high upside with his athleticism and a pair of plus offerings, but needs the curveball to take a step forward in order to reach it. On the flip side, it’s a floor that keeps him in the starting rotation, unlike some of his organizational farmhands that draw more attention but are more likely to be relegated to bullpen duties.



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Jka
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Jka

Good article; Astro fans are well aware of Velazquez and the possibility that he’ll add another solid rotation arm. One quibble; the article implies that Velasquez had been ” lost in the shuffle” among other Astro prospects at Lancaster and was only now beginning to break through. However, he actually started the year very effectively in Lancaster and may have been in line for a promotion to AA Corpus Christi until a groin injury sidelined him for several weeks. In that regard, the article is right on target; Velazquez has been effective at just about every level he’s pitched but needs to stay healthy to reach his potential.

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