The Phillies continued their rebuild on Wednesday dealing closer Ken Giles to the Astros for pitching prospect Vincent Velasquez, outfielder Derek Fisher, starting pitcher Brett Oberholtzer and pitching prospect Thomas Eshelman.
Giles is coming off a season where he inherited the closer role once Jonathan Papelbon was traded to the Nationals. Astros fans can only hope that bringing in Giles turns out better than how Papelbon performed in Washington. I am sure he will have no problem accomplishing that. In 70 innings of work in 2015, Giles went 6-3 with 15 saves, 12 holds, and 5 blown saves with a 1.80 ERA, 2.13 FIP, 3.05 xFIP, while striking out more than 11 batters per nine innings. Giles throws heat, getting his fastball up to 100 mph, and sits around 96-97, and he is mainly a fastball/slider pitcher, which is perfectly fine to get three outs a few times per week.
I admit I like the return for the Phillies, as they get a potential #3 starter in Velasquez, but if things don't work out for him he could be a dominant closer. The rap on him is that he can't stay healthy and has already had one Tommy John surgery, and the list of pitchers who have come back from two Tommy John surgeries is very small. Very small.
Last season, Velasquez made 19 appearances in an Astros uniform, 7 of which he started, pitching 55.2 innings with a 1-1 record with a 4.37 ERA, 3.46 FIP with a 58-21 strikeout to walk rate. His average fastball sits in the 94-95 range, and he is mainly a two pitch pitcher, throwing his fastball and curveball about 87% of the time. His changeup is a work in progress at this point. The Phillies could toss him in the rotation to start the season, but he could start the season in Triple-A where they can limit his innings after he threw just 88.2 innings last season.
The next best prospect that the Phillies received in the Giles deal is outfield prospect Derek Fisher. Below is what our prospect team wrote about him in their recent Top 10 Astros Prospects for 2016:
#6 - Derek Fisher (OF)
Age on Opening Day: 22
The biggest knock on Fisher has long been that he was destined to shift to left field, where his bat would need to carry him - which is generally not a concern in the world of fantasy baseball. Fisher has above-average to plus power and speed, and both showed-up in spades in 2015 (22 HR, .208 ISO, 31 SB). Some of that production can be attributed to Fisher spending 84 games in the hitter-friendly California League, but there is little doubt that he has the tools to contribute in every category. His hitting mechanics may lead to batting averages in the .250 to .270 range (and he did strike out in just over 23% of his PA last year), but that feels like nitpicking.
Fisher should start the 2016 season in Double-A, and we should learn more of what kind of hitter he is after he faces better pitching in the Eastern League. If he performs well, I see him getting a call up in 2017.
The third player involved in the deal is starter Brett Oberholtzer who should start the season in the Phillies rotation. He is not rosterable in any format in my opinion as he doesn't strike out many, walks too many and is homer-prone.
The last pitcher in this deal is Thomas Eshelman who is a younger version of Cliff Lee, as he rarely walks a batter, but doesn't strike out many either.
The three players fantasy owners need to concern themselves with are Giles, Velasquez and Fisher. Giles is the most valuable of the three and should be one of the top 5-7 closers in the game in 2016. Velasquez is draftable in the later rounds of NL only leagues, while Fisher is draftable in leagues where prospects can be drafted/rostered.