Don’t Forget About September Shut-Downs: Vincent Velasquez
Lots of dynasty baseball players like to think that they are good at keeping the long-term in mind. We make a wizard trade for that prospect who won’t be in The Show for at least three years, and we pat ourselves on the back for those next three up and down years of prospect-dom. Sadly, dynasty baseball players are also human beings, and human beings undergo something known as recency bias… We all know it; the movie you saw last week was the best you’ve ever seen, even though the movie you saw last month used to hold that title, and before that the movie you saw last year. Recency bias exists in every walk of life, and it can definitely exist in a dynasty league near you.
One of the more frustrating things a fantasy owner might have to deal with is his pitcher getting shut down in September. Your young phenom, the guy who has carried your pitching staff all year, gets shut down in order to protect his gifted arm. For some, after a month of seeing no contributions from that guy, it’s a pleasant surprise to remember he’s on your team and how good he was. From the 2016 season, one guy in particular stands out to me as a guy you don’t want to forget about: Vincent Velasquez.
Vincent Velasquez was supposed to be a reliever. Houston thought so; the pundits after he was traded to Philadelphia thought so. Whether it was command or injury concerns, analysts and baseball people left and right thought that Velasquez would turn out to be a bullpen arm, limiting his value. Last year, starting all 24 of his appearances, he proved he can be a starting pitcher in the major leagues. With an ERA+ of 100, he was exactly a league average pitcher, but keep in mind he threw about half the year as a 23 year old. A league average pitcher at 23 normally develops into much better than league average as he moves into his prime.
The tantalizing thing about Velasquez is his strikeout rate. He struck out 1o.44 batters per nine innings last year, including a game where he struck out 16 Padres (yeah, it’s the Padres, but still, 16). His K%, the number of batters that stepped in the box that he struck out, was a strong 27.6%. He didn’t throw quite enough innings to qualify for leaderboards, but if he had and had maintained that rate, he would have been sixth in all of baseball with that K%. More than one of every four guys that stepped in would strike out. He also would have been in the top 20 in swinging strike percentage if he qualified, at over 11%. Two impressive statistics for a guy who pitched much of the season at only 23.
Vincent Velasquez, VV as I like to call him, is not a fluke. He has the stuff to be dominant for years and years to come. It all starts with a fastball that he averaged 94 miles per hour on this past season. He also has three other pitches, a slider, curve, and changeup, all of which he will throw in any count. His curve and slider both flash plus at times, and he should only continue to hone them as he gets more experienced. He also will throw his changeup at very effective times in at-bats; when the batter has to gear up for Velasquez’s heat, the drop in velocity and the physical drop on his changeup are enough to get some swing and misses.
I’m not sure if your local VV owner would have forgotten enough about Velasquez’s tantalizing potential to trade him to you on the cheap, but it’s sure worth a try. He could be a stalwart in your dynasty rotation for the next ten years, and if there’s any chance at all that he’s undervalued, that is not the kind of opportunity you pass up. I’d be going after him right this instant, and if you get rejected, you’ll just have to face the dominance of Vincent Velasquez from the wrong dugout for the next decade.