Pittsburgh Pirates: Previewing Potential Rotation Battle

St. Louis Cardinals v Pittsburgh Pirates
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Vince Velasquez

The Pirates signed Vince Velasquez to a one-year, $3.15 million deal this past off-season. Formerly a top prospect in the Houston Astros' and Philadelphia Phillies' systems, Velasquez was part of the blockbuster package that also included notorious former first-round pick Mark Appel that sent Ken Giles to the Houston Astros. After a solid 2016 rookie season, Velasquez has never lived up to the potential he once had.

Velasquez spent the 2022 season as part of the Chicago White Sox's pitching staff. All told, he pitched 75.1 innings in a swing-man role (nine starts in 27 games). Velasquez had a sub-par 4.78 ERA, 4.25 FIP, and 1.23 WHIP during this time. The right-hander struck out just 21.3% of opponents with a 1.31 HR/9, but he did have a quality 7.8% walk rate on the plus side. His ability to prevent walks was about the only silver lining.

Now Velasquez did pitch better as a reliever than a starter. He had a 4.07 ERA but 3.22 FIP and 1.06 WHIP as an RP. However, in the outings he had out of the Sox's rotation, he had a 5.26 ERA, 5.20 FIP, and 1.40 WHIP. Eight of the 11 home runs the right-hander allowed were during his games as a starting pitcher.

Unlike either Brubaker or Oviedo, there is no glaring positive about Velasquez. He was below average in all of Baseball Savant's metrics, and most ERA estimators did not paint him in a more favorable light. At best, instead of being a pitcher with an ERA close to 4.80, he was more of a pitcher with an ERA closer to 4.30-4.50. Velasquez's best performances were as a bullpen pitcher rather than a starter.