Guardians Will Give Ralphy Velazquez Runway To Develop At Catcher


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Like many hard-hitting high school catchers, Ralphy Velazquez still has plenty to learn and improve upon defensively. But there are far fewer question marks about his bat.

At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, the lefthanded-hitting Velazquez slugged his way into the first round of the 2023 draft. The Guardians liked his bat enough to make him the 23rd overall pick.

Velazquez is a product of Huntington Beach (Calif.) High, where he was not exclusively a catcher.

“Defensively, this is the first time in his life that he has caught full-time,” Guardians assistant GM James Harris said.

Before making any judgments on Velazquez’s future, the Guardians would like to give the 18-year-old a shot at becoming a full-time catcher. That’s what the organization did with 2018 first-rounder Bo Naylor, who enters 2024 as the projected big league starter for the first time.

“We are very excited about Ralphy and his transition from high school to pro ball,” Harris said.

In a six-game pro debut in the Arizona Complex League, Velazquez hit .348/.393/.739 with two home runs. That was an encouraging start to his pro career, but the Guardians already knew he could hit.

It’s the other parts of his game that will require polishing. Specifically, his defense.

“We have been impressed with his progress so far, but mastery at the catching position takes years of physical, mental and skill development,” Harris said.

“Not only does he have to prepare his body to catch, he is also learning pitching, learning relationships with pitchers, coaches and analysts, as well as developing receiving, throwing and game-calling skills.”

Offensively, the Guardians feel they got one of the top hitters in the draft. Can he eventually handle a pitching staff? That is still to be determined.

“For a high school player, this may take longer,” Harris said. “But Ralphy has shown the work ethic and determination to be great at the position. He has a strong arm and is a smart kid so we are excited about the future.”

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