The 2015 season ended with the Phillies winning 63 games. They were in the middle of rebuilding and had moved all the players we had thought that they would. But shockingly, on December 12th the Phillies traded a valuable part of their future in Ken Giles to the Houston Astros for 5 players. Giles took over closing duties after the team traded Jonathan Papelbon on July 28th. He finished the year with 15 saves, 11.2 K/9 and thrilled fans with his 100 mph fastball giving a glimmer of hope for future years.
That all changed on that cold December day when Houston came looking for a closer to grow with their young ball club.
The Phillies received a great haul for Giles, who was still under team control until the 2020 season. Derek Fisher was in the initial agreement of the deal, but in the end they received Vince Velasquez, Brett Oberholtzer, Thomas Eshelman, Mark Appel and Jonathan Arauz. Let’s take a look at how the prospects were viewed at the time of the deal and how they’ve made out since then.
Mark Appel – RHP – Then-ranked 2nd in Houston’s system. Appel was drafted in the 1st round 2 years in a row (he didn’t sign the first time) and had ace potential. Over his career he has shown two things – being injury-prone and having less-than-stellar control. He has yet to pitch in major leagues since being drafted. In his 4 minor-league seasons he owns a WHIP of 1.519, a 5.06 ERA and averages almost 4 walks for every 9 IP. It was originally thought that the change of scenery may have helped him but at this point it looks like he will not contribute to the big league team at all.
Vince Velasquez – RHP – Then-ranked 4th in Houston’s system. Velasquez showed a lot of potential and dominant starts during the first half of last year. He burst on the scene in 2016 with a 3.32 ERA striking out 93 hitters in only 78 2/3 IP. As with most young pitchers, he slowed down in the 2nd half but hopes were high for him coming into 2017. He struggled in 2017, pitching to a 5.13 ERA but still showed strikeout ability. It’s possible his injuries slowed him down this year – he had elbow and finger issues which caused him to miss time with DL stints. There was talk this year that his future may be in the bullpen but he has the makings of a solid starter if he can stay healthy.
Brett Oberholtzer – LHP – Wasn’t ranked in their top 10 and was viewed as a potential 5th starter in the future. Oberholtzer appeared in 26 games for the Phillies in 2016 and finished with an ERA north of 5 while walking 3.6 batters per 9 innings. He was then waived on August 6 of that year and was quickly picked up by Anaheim where he had an ERA of 8.55. He toiled in Toronto’s system this past year and is currently a free agent.
Tom Eshelman – RHP – Wasn’t ranked in Houston’s top 10 at the time of the trade. Eshelman didn’t have the finest stats for Houston but something clicked for him in 2017. Eshelman had a 0.97 WHIP and a 2.40 ERA across two levels this past year. For his career he’s only walked 51 batters in 281 innings. He has been mentioned in the same breath as Greg Maddux (not by me) due to his great control. Eshelman doesn’t have the best velocity but he has elite command and control, helping to his striking out 229 batters in those innings. The future looks bright for him as a solid 3 starter.
Harold Arauz – RHP – Wasn’t ranked in Houston’s top 10 at the time of the trade. Arauz put up average stats during his time with Houston, with none really standing out. He split time between starting and relieving for three years until 2016. This past season he was promoted from A to AA and continued his string of success, striking out almost a batter per inning with a 0.88 WHIP and a 1.97 ERA.
Looking back, the Phillies received a fair haul for a closer, albeit a young one with multiple future years of team control. So far, the trade definitely helped Houston, as they’ve been in the playoffs the last 2 years. However, if Eshelman and Velasquez continue their development, the Phillies would be more than happy to have made this trade.
Article featured image of Mark Appel – courtesy of FOR THE WIN/USAToday.com (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)