(Updated 12/10 8:30am)
I don’t think the Phillies wanted to trade Ken Giles, I honestly believe that he was part of their future. However, the market decided it had an insatiable appetite for high impact relievers and the Phillies found themselves with one of the best options. Giles at age 25 would have been around for the other side of the rebuild, but with no value coming in 2016 on a bad team, the Phillies were able to spin him off into some added risk and added upside. Coming back for Giles are four players lead by RHP Vincent Velasquez. The two others are LHP Brett Oberholtzer and OF Derek Fisher with the 4th remaining a mystery, now revealed to be RHP Thomas Eshelman.
Velasquez is a solid return on his own. The righty is only 23, throws hard (92-95 touching 98) and has a second plus pitch in his changeup. He will mix in an average curveball giving him a complete starter’s arsenal. The Astros rushed him to the majors last year and he pitched both in the rotation and in relief. His ceiling is a #3 or better starter and his realistic floor is probably impact reliever. The Phillies could start him in the major leagues or send him back to the minors to work on his command and build up his innings in a low pressure environment. Velasquez had Tommy John surgery back in 2011 but has been arm injury free since, and there has been little to suggest he is injury risk. Velasquez likely would slot above Jake Thompson on my Phillies prospect list if he were eligible (#3 in the system).
Oberholtzer is mostly filler here. He is a 26 year old left handed pitcher who has split the last three years between the majors and AAA rotations. He throws strikes, doesn’t miss a ton of bats and does a lot of #5 starter like things. The big concern is that his velocity has dropped off each of the last three seasons to the point where he was averaging under 89 in 2015. He likely will go into the #5 starter competition with Adam Morgan, David Buchanan, Alec Asher, and Severino Gonzalez.
Fisher is a toolys outfield tweener. He was a first round pick of the Astros in 2014 and mashed throw low-A and hi-A (Cal League) this year. The hit tool is probably below average, but there is a solid approach to go with the swing and miss. The hit tool hinders the plus raw power some, and while he is somewhere between a plus and plus plus runner he is not a center fielder long term. His arm is also poor, which forces him to left field long term. There is enough between the bat and the speed for him to be a regular, but he will need to prove it outside of the Cal League. He will slot in somewhere in the 7-15 range on Phillies prospect lists. He will join a Reading team that might be more prospect laden than the 2015 version.
Eshelman is a freak. The scouting report does not jump off the page as none of his pitches have shown anything above average, but the #46 pick in the 2015 draft has crazy command having walked only 18 batters in 376 college innings. There are a lot of mixed opinions on how he profiles in the major leagues. His detractors point to a fastball that sits 89-91 and secondary pitches that won’t miss bats. His supporters think that his command is a large enough outlier that he will succeed in the majors. His ceiling is as a #4 starter and he will slot into the back of the Top 20 in the Phillies system.
As for who takes Giles’ place, it is almost certainly David Hernandez in the short term. The highest upside arm in the system is Jimmy Cordero who can exceed Giles in velocity, but has yet to make the command leap that Giles did in 2014. Other relievers like Luis Garcia and Edubray Ramos throw hard with good offspeed but they are bit behind at this point. Other potential long term candidates include starters Nick Pivetta and Victor Arano who both throw in the mid 90s with good off speed pitches. Both are starting for now, but could be in the bullpen mix by the time the Phillies need a closer.
Overall, Ken Giles was one of the building blocks for the next Phillies contender and they made a deal to try and turn him into multiple parts of the next contender. I like the return in this deal a lot because Velasquez could be an impact piece going forward. Losing Giles sucks, and it makes the 2016 Phillies a bit worse on the field and quite a bit worse in viewing enjoyment, but Matt Klentak is off to a nice start.