Pirates Prospects Daily: Did the Pirates Do It Again with Vince Velasquez?

To be fair, if there was only going to be one game to show the majority of Pirates fans what the potential impact Vince Velasquez could make in 2023, Saturday night was it.

The free agent pickup had eluded any sort of television broadcast up to what was his last spring training outing, and then he made it count. 

Velasquez pitched five strong innings, allowing three hits, one run, and three walks, while striking out seven.

His fastball was lights out, generating eight swings and misses, while posting a 36% Called Strike Plus Whiff Rate (CSW%). 

The success he saw on Saturday could be possibly based off of familiarity, as the Baltimore Orioles are the only team he faced during Grapefruit League outings, four in all total.

It was really just his start on March 19 that has really inflated his ERA, as in his other three starts he combined to allow just two earned runs across ten innings, while striking out 11.

Velasquez is kind of the ultimate test for the Pirates coaching staff. They’ve had success putting Tyler Anderson and Jose Quintana back on the right path, where they each would eventually cash in at some point after leaving the team.

While he had some hype coming up the Philadelphia Phillies system, the success never really translated to the extent it had for Anderson and Quintana, so he may not exactly qualify as a ‘reclamation project’ like the others did.

The Pirates enter 2023 trying to avoid a third straight 100-loss season. That fact tells you that much has gone right recently, but if there is one thing going for them, it’s been their ability to tinker with pitchers at the Major League level to get the most out of them.

Pirates Prospects Daily

By John Dreker

The Pirates lost 6-4 to the Orioles last night. The Velasquez outing was the only real highlight. Here’s the boxscore. They take on the Atlanta Braves this afternoon on the road. It’s a 1:05 PM start. MLB.com lists it as one of the free games of the day. We will post the lineup below once it becomes available.

**Pirates Inch Closer to Opening Day Roster Pirates made a roster decision to get closer to Opening Day

**Pirates Draft Prospects: Paul Skenes is Exceeding Very High Expectations Our fourth draft prospect profile.

**Pirates Prospects Daily: Upper Level Catcher Picture Becoming Clearer

**Pirates DVR: Canaan Smith-Njigba RBI, Jun-Seok Shim, Quinn Priester

Song of the Day

I picked today’s song by Willie Mae Ford Smith because she’s from Rolling Fork, Mississippi, which was devastated by a tornado on Friday night. She’s a famous gospel singer. I don’t listen to gospel, so I don’t know any of her songs, but this seemed like the best one of a few I tried out.

Today’s Lineup

Rich Hill scratched due to illness

Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.

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Velasquez has good enough stuff to have struck out a batter per inning in his career.

His control is good enough to only have a reasonable 3.6 bb/9 in his career.

thats a good combination.

the problem is the 1.5 HR/9 he’s given up. that’s a meatball/command problem.

I’d be surprised, but not shocked, by a year where his HR’s are a bit suppressed and he pops a solid ERA.


Looks like a fairly successful MLB Spring Training is closing.

Looking forward to watching the MILB players progress

Some of the signees from Jan 2022 have made significant changes to their bodies over the past year

Among SS’s

Yordany De Los Santos was 6’1″ 170 and has grown to 6’1″ 195

Roinny Aguiar 5’6″ 160 to 5’6″ 174

Cristopher Orelin 5’11” 157 to 5’11” 162

Isaac Paulino 5’11” 160 to 5’11” 172

Daje Paulino 5’10” 155 to 5’10” 162


Among Catchers

Axiel Plaz 5’11” 165 to 5’11” 227

Richard Ramirez 6’0″ 160 to 6’0″ 217

July Vittini 6’2″ 190 to 6’2″ 224

Lennyn Nunez 5’10” 150 to 5’10” 199


Plaz is up to 227 and blanco to 283? That cannot all be good weight which is troubling to me


Among OFs and 1B-types

Tony Blanco Jr. 6’5″ 230 to 6’6″ 283

Carlos Tirado 6’1″ 187 to 6’1″ 235

Eduardo Oviedo 5’11” 152 to 6’3″ 181

Angel Rodriguez 6’2″ 174 to 6’2″ 197


I’d love to see Blanco make it to the show but I honestly don’t think that frame is gonna play. 283 seems a bit much to me


Holderman hasn’t impressed at all this ST…..


At least he’s been better than Crowe, who somehow seems locked into a spot in the pen. ST performances should have little impact on roster decisions, but Crowe was pretty bad last year and his spring has done nothing to relieve my concerns about him.


I’ve been on the anti-Crowe train since august! There’s nothing to hold on to, no dominating pitch, no command, there’s nothing there.

Scam likely

Right handed power pitchers ,who were fairly high rated prospect ,who put it all together at 30 yrs of age? Oh as a starter. This is a short list, maybe someone who came back from Japan?


If all goes well, he will be a swing man out of the bullpen on July 1, or off the roster if he really struggles. This years Jonathan Sanchez.


everyone always brings up Sanchez. i think we really lose it in the history of it all…. Sanchez was just a minor league contract and threw 13 innings for the team.

there was no investment there. there was no sign that they actually thought he was more than a dart throw.

i think our expectations need to be higher for VV than they shouldve been for Sanchez due to the MLB roster spot and actual financial investment.


That’s not unfair, but he did make 4 turns through the rotation, and pitched in 5 games. The fact that he only pitched 13 innings is just indicative of how bad he was. Despite the minor league deal, his salary when placed onto the major league roster was $1,375,000. So it’s not like he was league minimum or anything. That was about 3x’s league minimum back then. Again, I have no issue with thinking VV will be better than Sanchez, but that’s not a high bar to clear. I don’t think we should be counting on 150 IP from him, nor do I think management expects this.

Last edited 2 months ago by Mike

Three points: VV has pitched in front of fairly brutal defenses for most of his career, he does poorly the third time through the lineup, and his control is marginal for a starter. But I don’t think the Sanchez comp flies.


The third time through problems are why he might be a decent long man in the pen. There is plenty of evidence he is not a starter (unless he has come up with a new pitch he can control, which seems unlikely.)


Only comparison between the two is Hispanic last names. Be hard to come up with a worse comp to VV.


Just so I’m clear: I meant the purpose behind the signing, not comparing them as pitchers. They are both guys that were signed to hold the fort down until the super 2 deadline.


Thanks for clarifying.


Sanchez was a desperation play. An ERA of 8ish suggests a new career is in order. His Bucs ERA said “Yep, big time.”

VV is a reasonable fifth starter, though a MIRP role might suit better.

I doubt that the super 2 deadline was relevant. You need eight or more potential starters, and stashing some in AAA is just basic roster management.


Roberto: sure VV is a better option than Sanchez, but that ain’t saying much. He’s had minimal success recently as a starter, and 5+ FIP as a starter last year. I wouldn’t count on him to do anything more than eat innings, hopefully at a sub 5 ERA, until the kids arrive, and then they can move him to bullpen where he’s a better fit. Hence my super 2 deadline comment. The idea behind Sanchez was the same: hopefully he eats innings until Cole arrived.


The conventional wisdom that “spring training stats are meaningless” doesn’t mean what it used to now that we have stat cast and pitch shape metrics like Pitching+ and Stuff+.

Some stats always have less noise than others, such as K/BB ratios, but with the new physical attributes that are unrelated to outcomes, we actually can look at pieces of performances and decide to have hope.

Not certainty, as the negative nancies on the board always seem to have, but hope.

Keller and Velazquez actually are eating pretty nicely on some of these metrics.

Last edited 2 months ago by sewer2001

Bullpen Battles…………..original….now
10) Robert Stephenson….80%……90%
11) Colin Holderman……..50%……90%
12) Jose Hernandez (L)…70%……70%
13) Dauri Moreta…………..20%……60%
14) Yerry de los Santos….60%……30%
15) Rob Zastryzny (L)……10%……30%
16) Angel Perdomo (L)…..10%……30%
Stephenson and Holderman appear to be locks. Jose Hernandez has had a roller coaster spring. If the Pirates are nothing, they’re stubborn. So I don’t see them returning the #2 Rule 5 pick. Moreta has pitched great all spring. Yerry and the 2 NRI lefties are waiting in case Hernandez gets returned or it’s determined Stephenson needs more time to get ready.

Last edited 2 months ago by hoptown

I have been impressed with Moreta when I have seen him pitch this spring, and not impressed with Hernandez when I have seen him this spring.


not to be picky, but Stephenson is injured (IL or 60-day IL)

Scam likely

Stephenson 15 IL, is pitching but needs more time. Hernandez make the club but will have perform or gets return, perdomo is very good vs lefties so has a shot. Morete could be the set up man by mid April.


We could really use that Covid Taxi squad to travel with the team and allow quick interchangeable parts. Could carry two more LH bullpen pieces. In fact, this is Shelton’s first season of dealing with a 26-man roster for Opening Day. That makes me even more concerned about his roster construction and game usage.


He is what he is…history will repeat itself…


He’ll be out of the rotation by June.


I hope he does a little better than that, but I fear you are right…


What you really want is one of the AAA guys to make it clear that “I am one of your best pitchers. Promote me.”


We could use 10 of those guys. Unfortunately this spring has had very few guys step up. Swaggerty did and he still got sent down.


I want to believe, but that was not a strong lineup he faced last night and one a AAAA pitcher, for example, could be expected to do well against. It doesn’t mean the results won’t hold, just that last night’s performance should barely move the needle.

Not only are ST performances questionable in general, but with the way teams tend to let many of their top players only play home games, ST performances against visiting teams are highly questionable.


Excellent points – many of the followers do not pick up on that secret of ST, and it is getting worse as the years pass.

In the years many of us remember, many of the players and pitchers had to have Winter jobs to make ends meet, and ST was the opportunity to get in as much time as possible.in order to get into playing shape – 2 that come to mind are Elroy Face working as a Carpenter, and, was it Hebner that worked as a grave digger?

In the last 20-25 years, players have started earning enough to spend the off-seasons working out and staying in excellent playing shape. Therefore, ST becomes a time when you get your work in, and then on away days, the veterans go to the beach or Disney/Universal with family, or to the Hard Rock Casino, or as the Braves were known to do – the entire pitching staff would go golfing!

VV is a $3.15 mil gamble that the Pirate Pitching Coaches will be able to make him passable for two or three months. In the last two games we have seen him at his worst (against the O’s Starters) and at his best (against the O’s subs). If he pitches at his average in the regular season, he will have an ERA between 4.50 and 5.50. Rather pitch Oviedo who could be more of a long-term option for the Pirates.


Considering how Anderson and Quintana improved after working with Pirates pitching coaches, I think it’s foolish to jump to conclusions on how good or bad VV will be this season. If anything, VV could improve more since he gets to pitch to Hedges, a superior defensive Catcher.


The problem with that is Anderson and Quintana had a much better base to start with. They were both like Liriano, who had pass success, and just needed help getting back to that success. VV is trying to find success for the first time at 30.


First, that’s not true. In 2018 VV put up 2.6 WAR and a 3.75 FIP over 146 innings for the Phillies. That is absolutely success at the major league level. In fact it is a solid 3rd starter’s production in 2018. He has dealt with injuries since, and been pretty bad as a starter. But he has had runs of success as a reliever since then.

So you’re apparently not even looking at his career while you maintain this great knowledge of his future.

You’re clearly not serious about this discussion and are accepting conventional wisdom rather than considering possibilities.

Second, it isn’t true that only previously successful pitchers have done well with the pirates resurrection efforts. Tyler Anderson had no season as good as Velazquez in 2018.

Get your facts straight if you’re going to insist on being right.

Last edited 2 months ago by sewer2001

Ok you made me look… and I saw in Velasquez’ best years 18-19 he had ERAs of 4.85 & 4.91 as I expected. His WAR came from being a horse. VV is what you get if you hand the ball to Bryse Wilson every 5th day and say “Gimme 6 innings kid”


I guess time will tell if you’re right. Might be a good idea to stock up on Frank’s Red Hot to make that crow sting as it goes down just in case you’re wrong.

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