Philadelphia Phillies: Projecting Their Newest Prospects


The Ken Giles-to-Houston news is now considered old news.

However, the trade served an important, but different, purpose for both the Astros and the Philadelphia Phillies. The Astros finally obtained their “closer” for the foreseeable future while the Phillies jumpstarted their complete rebuild. Wasn’t it not that long ago that their roles were reversed?

Anyway, the Phillies acquired four players in total, but only three can be considered true prospects at this point as left-hander Brett Oberholtzer spent significant stints within the Astros major league rotation. The real hope lies in the three prospects acquired from Houston: Vincent Velasquez, Derek Fisher, and Thomas Eshelman.

Vincent Velasquez

Easily the real prize in the Ken Giles trade, Velasquez comes over to Philadelphia with plenty of promise and risk. After being selected in the second round of the 2010 draft, the now 23-year old right-hander has experienced his fair share of downs throughout his professional career, starting with Tommy John surgery in 2011. Even though his recovery from Tommy John was successful, the injuries did not stop. At various times, Velasquez has been shut down due to groin and lat muscle injuries. But despite these issues he is still one of the more promising prospects now in the Phillies system.

Even though he did not have much experience above Single A ball, the right-hander proved to be ready for the challenge when the Astros promoted him to the majors and relatively held his own despite a 4.38 ERA. In fact, he actually maintained a 3.46 FIP in 55.2 innings of work. And even though that is a small sample size, he has the tools to be successful in the major leagues.

Fangraphs currently projects Velasquez having a future value (FV) of 60 with his three best pitches being an above average fastball that reaches the low-to-mid nineties, a changeup that grades out to 55/60, and a curveball that projects to be an above average pitch. His future value indicates that he could end up being a mid-rotation starter or an average to above average closer in the major leagues.

Here is Velasquez in the 2014 Arizona Fall League:

The chief concern is his ability to stay healthy as his career progresses. And even though his arm hasn’t given an issue as of late, the other minor injuries hampering him could enforce the notion that he is a fragile pitcher. If that is the case then it wouldn’t be surprising for the Phillies to convert him to a reliever. But the talent is there for Velasquez to be a starter as well. Either way, Philadelphia now has one of the more intriguing prospects in baseball.

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Derek Fisher

Fisher started his pro career when the Astros selected him in the Competitive Balance Round A with what was effectively the 37th overall pick in the 2014 draft. The University of Virgina alum is known for his overwhelming power and will provide the Phillies another intriguing option for their outfield in the future.

He spent his 2015 season between three different levels within the Houston farm system, and ended up spending the majority of his time with the Lancaster JetHawks. In 334 at-bats, the 22-year old outfielder slashed a .262/.354/.471 batting line with 16 HR and 63 RBI. He also finished his stint in Lancaster with a 124 wRC+, which was above average.

One of the newest Phillies grades out to have plus-plus power and speed, but is currently below average in other categories. While his speed is already major league caliber, his fielding and throwing attributes don’t jump out. It is possible that he could end up being an average to above average fielder, but that may come from playing left field exclusively. His projected fielding and throwing tools currently grade out at 45 to 45+, which basically limits where the Phillies can play him. However, the Astros were interested in trying him out in center field. It remains to be seen if Philadelphia’s front office attempts the same experiment.

Fisher also grades out to have plus-plus power, which is his primary calling card. But his game power and hit tools currently grade out to be below average. There is a silver lining though as his projected value in both categories grade out to be above average. So there is hope that he can continue to develop as a hitter and then just mash his into the major leagues just like he is doing in the minors currently.

It remains to be seen how Fisher adjusts to the higher levels in the minors. His power is legit and that should continue to carry him as he advances through the system, but how his other tools develop will determine how effective he will be for the Phillies. His defense may be the biggest weakness in his game. Whether that means he will be a main cog in the rebuilt Phillies machine remains to be seen.

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Thomas Eshelman

Even though he was a late addition to the Giles trade, Eshelman is nonetheless an interesting prospect for the Phillies. The former Cal State-Fullerton pitcher was selected in the second round, 46th overall in the 2015 draft. At the very least he provides the Phillies a pitcher that is expected to advance quickly through the system due to his extensive college career.

Standing at 6’3″ and 210 pounds, the 21-year old right-hander is projects to be anywhere from a mid-rotation to the back end of a major league rotation; basically a high floor with a low ceiling type of pitcher. Throughout his time with Cal State-Fullerton, Eshelman wasn’t known for strikeouts but garnered attention based on the number of walks he issued. In short, he only issued 18 walks during his entire college career. That was done in 52 collegiate appearances!

So needless to say, the current Phillies farmhand is known for his control. In fact, it is probably the only way Eshelman will be successful in professional baseball. His pitch arsenal, while solid, isn’t known for blowing batters away so control should remain his best friend. You see, Eshelman has a fastball that sits in the low nineties, occasionally pushing 93 MPH. He also throws multiple breaking pitches, specifically a curveball and a changeup. Unspectacular, but solid.

We will have to wait till 2016 to see more of Eshelman as the Astros only have pitch 10.1 innings after being drafted. Injuries weren’t involve, it was mainly a rest issue after a strenuous 2015 season in college. Regardless, the Phillies acquire another pitcher with upside who could help the team sooner rather than later.

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