Phillies

Pros, cons and likely prospects of a Vince Velasquez trade with Rangers

Pros, cons and likely prospects of a Vince Velasquez trade with Rangers

Vince Velasquez just turned 24 in June.

He's under team control for the next five years and won't start making a lot of money (in baseball terms) until about 2020.

He has a big fastball that averages 93.7 mph, the 10th-best velocity of any NL starting pitcher.

He can be really, really good at times — the 16-strikeout shutout of the Padres, the 10-strikeout game against the Marlins, scoreless performances against the Mets, Indians and Diamondbacks.

And even when he's not at his best, like Friday night in Atlanta, Velasquez can succeed because his stuff is that good. He's made 18 starts this season and allowed two runs or fewer 11 times.

All of these things make him valuable to the Phillies. And all of these things make him attractive to every other team in the majors.

It doesn't seem likely that the Phils will ultimately pull the trigger and trade Velasquez to the Rangers, who are in "deep discussions" with the Phils on a deal, according to CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury (see story). But Texas has such an intriguing group of prospects that it makes sense for the Phillies to listen.

Velasquez, for all of his strengths, has not proven yet that he can be a durable, 180- to 200-inning starting pitcher. He's never even reached 125 innings at any level in the minors. There have been numerous games this season in which his pitch count has soared — either because of a lack of control, his occasional nibbling around the plate or a lot of foul balls. The result has been some early exits. That was a knock on Velasquez when he was in Houston and he hasn't yet fully outgrown it.

That's why it could make sense for the Phils to trade him. Perhaps they believe they'd be selling high on a guy who's shown so much talent and promise but not the type of consistency of a No. 1 or No. 2 starter.

Obviously, it makes sense to move him only if the return is strong. And the Rangers could certainly offer a strong package if they decide Velasquez is their guy.

The names you'll see thrown around a lot as the Aug. 1 trade deadline approaches are power hitting third baseman Joey Gallo, infielder Jurickson Profar and outfielders Lewis Brinson and Nomar Mazara.

Mazara is a pipe dream. The Rangers refused to include him in last summer's Cole Hamels trade, and he's only increased his worth to them this season by hitting .282/.334/.417 with 12 homers and 41 RBIs for a first-place team. He'll be a top-three finisher for AL Rookie of the Year. It's almost impossible to envision the Rangers trading away a valuable piece of their major-league roster for Velasquez. It would be a wash, at best.

Gallo and Profar are more realistic targets for the Phillies in a Velasquez trade. Gallo, 22, has some of the best raw power in the minors, true grade-80 power. The 6-foot-5, left-handed hitter bashed 23 homers in the minors last season, 42 the year before and 40 the year before that. Initially, that power translated to the majors when Gallo was called up last June. He hit homers in each of his first two games and had five in his first 50 at-bats before pitchers adjusted. So far in 136 big-league plate appearances, he's hit .192/.287/.408 with seven homers and 63 strikeouts.

The whiffs will always be a part of Gallo's game. To me, he has Chris Carter written all over him — a lot of homers, a lot of strikeouts, low batting average. Gallo could be better than Carter (the Brewers' first baseman) because he plays a more important position and will hopefully be more than a .217 career hitter like Carter. But you also have to keep in mind that the Phillies already have Maikel Franco at third base. If Gallo was traded here, he'd likely play either first base or left field.

It's hard to say right now whether or not Gallo is more valuable or a better fit for the Phils than Velasquez. Usually, it makes sense to go with the everyday player over the pitcher who can make an impact at most twice a week. But, as stated above, Velasquez can give you six quality innings even when he's not "on." He has the most upside of any of the Phillies' young starting pitchers, including Aaron Nola.

Profar, who is somehow still just 23 after years atop prospect lists and a few injuries, would seem to be a better fit. He's a multi-dimensional player who has impressed scouts for years for a reason. He can play every infield position in addition to left field, he has the look of a .300 hitter, and his power is developing.

A switch-hitter, Profar has hit .301/.356/.440 for the Rangers in 181 plate appearances this season with four doubles, two triples and five homers. It's been a while since his last full season in the minors, but in 2012 he hit .281 with an .820 OPS, 14 homers and 62 RBIs as a 19-year-old everyday shortstop at Double A.

The opinion here is that Profar will be a better major-league hitter than Phillies top prospect J.P. Crawford.

There is, however, a vast financial difference between Profar and Gallo. Profar will go to salary arbitration in 2017, 2018 and 2019 before becoming a free agent. Gallo, like Velasquez, won't start making meaningful baseball money until around 2020.

But a team like the Phillies that has deep pockets and so much open payroll space moving forward should be more concerned with receiving the right player than playing the cost benefit game.

Another thing to consider here is that the Rangers kind of need Profar. He's been playing every day for them and playing well at second base, third base and shortstop. He played Friday night in left field. He's started a bunch of games at first base, too, and figures to get some more reps there with Prince Fielder out for the season and Mitch Moreland having just an OK year.

Brinson is another name to keep in mind. A right-handed centerfielder, he was Texas' first-round pick in 2012. He had a terrific year at three different levels in 2015, hitting a combined .332/.403/.601 with 31 doubles, eight triples and 20 homers. He's struggled this season at Double A Frisco, hitting .227 with a .692 OPS in a hitter-friendly environment.

The Rangers also have some other pieces who could help the Phillies, but you'd figure any deal for Velasquez would have to include one of these three. Otherwise, it just makes no sense to even entertain the idea of a trade.

And really, if the Rangers are willing to include one or more of those three young players, they could get any team in the majors to listen to an offer for a starting pitcher. A package centered around two of them might be enough for Chris Sale. Maybe one of them could net Atlanta's Julio Teheran. Velasquez is really good, but so are the combinations of trade packages the Rangers can put together.

Zack Wheeler pitches a gem, Phillies bats come alive for 11 runs in win over Yankees

Zack Wheeler pitches a gem, Phillies bats come alive for 11 runs in win over Yankees

The Phillies got a strong start from Zack Wheeler and plenty of offense as they beat the New York Yankees, 11-7, in the first game of a doubleheader Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park.

Wheeler pitched six innings in the seven-inning affair. He gave up six hits, walked two and struck out two. He has won both of his starts with the Phillies and allowed just four runs (three earned) in 13 innings.

The Phillies, who were the visiting team in Game 1, erased a three-run deficit with four runs in the top of the third inning. They added six runs on six singles and a New York error in the sixth inning.

The leaky bullpen, of course, struggled, but the Phils built a big enough lead to survive.

Bryce Harper clubbed a two-run homer in the third inning. He left the game in the sixth inning after running down the first base line and being checked by an athletic trainer. It was apparently a precautionary move as Harper was in the Game 2 lineup.

J.T. Realmuto also homered for the Phillies, who are now 2-3. Wheeler has both of the team’s wins. 

The Phils will be the home team in Game 2. Aaron Nola will start the game.

It’s never easy

With his team leading, 11-3, manager Joe Girardi removed Wheeler at 87 pitches and entrusted the final three outs to his very shaky bullpen. Lefty Austin Davis was quickly mugged for four runs, three on Aaron Judge’s seventh homer of the season. 

After Trevor Kelley walked a tight rope and put two men on base, Girardi had to bring in closer Hector Neris to get the final out. That might sound insignificant, but it wasn’t, not with a second game to play. Neris threw just one pitch in earning the save. We’ll see if that affects his availability for Game 2.

Unhappy return

Sixteen years after being selected by the Phillies in the third round of the 2004 draft, lefty J.A. Happ faced his original team. Happ and Cole Hamels are the only two members of the 2008 World Series championship team still active.

It was not a pleasant return to CBP for the 37-year-old Happ. He allowed four runs in the top of the third inning to lose a 3-0 lead. The big hit in the frame was Harper’s two-run homer on an 0-2 pitch. Happ walked six batters, including four in the third inning. One of them came with the bases loaded.

Speaking of ...

... Homers on 0-2 counts. The Phillies gave up a whopping 16 of them last season. That was the most in the National League and second-most in the majors behind the Angels, who gave up 18.

In five games this season, Phillies pitchers have already allowed two 0-2 homers. Nola gave up one on a breaking ball in his first start and Wheeler gave up one (also on a breaking ball) to Brett Gardner in the second inning of this game. Other than that, Wheeler was very good.

Stay hot

Girardi went with a right-handed heavy batting order against the lefty Happ. Phil Gosselin started at third and Jean Segura moved to shortstop. Lefty-hitting Didi Gregorius did not start. He entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the fifth and stayed on at shortstop with Segura moving to third.

Gosselin had two plate appearances. He doubled and pushed home a run with a bases-loaded walk in the third.

For the season, Gosselin is 5 for 8 with two homers and a double. He has reached base safely eight times in his 11 plate appearances.

A kick start?

Rhys Hoskins fell behind 0-2 against reliever Nick Nelson in the sixth inning. He then drove a single to left field for his first RBI of the season. Maybe the hit will help Hoskins get going. He was 2 for 15 before the hit. 

On defense

Segura made an error at shortstop that cost Wheeler and the Phillies a run in the first inning. Segura atoned with a nice play to start a double play in the fourth.

The Phils turned three double plays behind Wheeler. Wheeler benefited from four double plays in his first start. Not a bad trend.

Spencer for hire?

Before Game 1, Girardi announced his pitching rotation for the week. Nola will pitch the second game of the doubleheader. Zach Eflin will pitch Thursday against the Yankees and Vince Velasquez and Jake Arrieta will pitch the first two games of the Atlanta series on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

Girardi said Sunday’s starter against the Braves was “to be determined.” It seems reasonable that top pitching prospect Spencer Howard could make his major-league debut that day. Girardi had previously said that he and team officials would discuss the possibility of Howard getting that start. Stay tuned.

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Bryce Harper exits with apparent tweak after best inning of Phillies' season

Bryce Harper exits with apparent tweak after best inning of Phillies' season

It may have been strictly precautionary, but the Phillies removed Bryce Harper in the bottom of the sixth inning Wednesday in the first game of their doubleheader after he appeared to tweak something during a swing.

Harper moved with a slight limp after the swing but appeared to be OK. He was visited by a trainer at first base and ran for himself in the top of the sixth after that healthy hack. The Phillies were up 11-3 when Joe Girardi pulled him, and there's another game 35 minutes after the first one ends, so they could just be playing it safe. We'll know more when the Phillies' Game 2 lineup comes out.

(Update: Harper was in the Game 2 lineup, so this was clearly a precautionary move.)

Earlier in the game, Harper hit a two-run home run to start the Phillies' scoring. Five games into his season, he has two homers, five RBI and a 1.054 OPS.

That sixth inning for the Phillies was their best all season. They scored six runs and had four hits with runners in scoring position after totaling just five in their first four games.

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