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Vince Velasquez adds depth for Pirates, but needs consistency for success

Velasquez ranked in the worst percentile in average exit velocity and barrel percentage last season.

Minnesota Twins v Chicago White Sox Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Pirates officially announced the signing of right-handed pitcher Vince Velasquez to a one-year contract on Tuesday. The deal is for $3.15 million.

Velasquez, 30, pitched in 27 games for the Chicago White Sox last season including nine starts. In 75.1 innings, the righty allowed 68 hits, 11 home runs, walked 25, struck out 69 and posted a 4.78 ERA. His 1.235 WHIP was the best of his career.

Starting 136 of 183 games in his eight-year career, Velasquez owns a lifetime 34-47 record, 4.93 ERA, 1.375 WHIP and 785 strikeouts in 726.1 total frames. He has never posted an ERA lower than 4.12 with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2016 — which is a night foreshadowing tribute to Pittsburgh’s area code across the state but an indication of his career production level.

Velasquez bounced between the Phillies (2016-21), San Diego Padres (2021) and White Sox (2022) before arriving on the North Shore. He debuted with the Houston Astros in 2015 before being traded to Philadelphia as the headliner of the Ken Giles deal. The Phillies designated him for assignment

ERA and WHIP (2015-2022):

2015: 4.37 ERA 1.275 WHIP

2016: 4.12 ERA 1,328 WHIP

2017: 5.13 ERA 1.500 WHIP

2018: 4.85 ERA 1.343 WHIP

2019: 4.91 ERA 1.389 WHIP

2020: 5.56 ERA 1.559 WHIP

2021: 6.30 ERA 1.484 WHIP

2022: 4.78 ERA 1.235 WHIP

The former second-round pick represented by the Boras Corporation is a 6’3” righty averaging 93 miles per hour on his fastball and utilizes a slider, curveball and changeup.

He displayed a season to forget in numerous Baseball Savant statistical categories. Velasquez ranked in the worst percentile, one percent, in average exit velocity and barrel percentage. He finished in the eighth percentile in x-slugging, 18th in chase rate and 31st in curve spin.

Swings and misses did not frequently define Velasquez’s limited success. He posted 41st in strikeout percentage, 45th in whiff percentage and middle of the pack at 49th in walk percentage. A decent start of the season faded into a poor finish.

Batters squared up Velasquez and hit the ball especially hard off the starter/reliever, who will earn a chance to start in the rotation for the 2023 Pirates. Velasquez’s 13 percent barrel percentage was the highest of his career, while the MLB average is 6.7. He averaged an exit velocity of 91.8 miles per hour, three miles greater than the league average.

The Pirates posted a hype video to Twitter following the signing and was met with… less than supportive comments, to put it lightly.

Velasquez throws his four-seam fastball 44 percent of the time while throwing the slider (22.5 percent) and curveball (16.8 percent) a combined 505 times, 60 less than the fastball. He occasionally shows a changeup (8.7 percent) and sinker (8 percent). One difference that could factor into the Pirates’ plans, Velasquez threw his fastball significantly less in 2022 than in 2021, about six percent, while upping his slider by 8.7 percent and nearly doubling his sinker usage.

Pitching into his 30s, Velasquez provides a veteran starter to a young group of Pirates pitchers looking to make an impact on turning a corner. Alongside Mitch Keller, Roansy Contreras, JT Brubaker, Johan Oviedo and Luis Ortiz, the Pirates are poised to enter spring with questions to answer and how Keller and Contreras will respond from improved campaigns.