Nelson Velazquez Shows Willingness To Make Adjustments
Amid all the upheaval within the Cubs organization, outfielder Nelson Velazquez is the type of player who could have slipped through the cracks without a first-round pedigree or the benefit of a minor league season in 2020.
While the Cubs understand that rebuilding won’t be an entirely smooth process, they also know that the jumps in player development can go in either direction. Velazquez made the leap this year by performing at High-A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Tennessee.
An MVP performance in the Arizona Fall League—he led the league with nine home runs and a 1.191 OPS—locked in the 23-year-old Velazquez's place on the 40-man roster at the Nov. 19 reserve roster deadline.
Velazquez signed for an above-slot $400,000 as a 2017 fifth-round pick out of high school in Puerto Rico. At the time, the Cubs were the defending World Series champions and loaded with young position players.
Velazquez didn’t have the prettiest righthanded swing, but Cubs scouts had gut feelings about his hand-eye coordination, bat speed, running ability and desire to compete.
Still, Velazquez largely remained off the prospect radar until this year. As the Cubs tested out new ideas in player development and tried to make up for lost time, Velazquez showed a willingness to make adjustments, finding ways to generate power and cut down strikeouts.
In 103 regular season games he hit .270/.333/.496 with 20 home runs and 17 stolen bases. A Cubs front office looking for building blocks certainly noticed that power production and subsequent AFL dominance.
“He’s been amazing,” Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said. “This is a continuation of a really excellent season. I’m super proud of him.
"The Fall League, in general, is a tough place to evaluate. Guys are working on different things. It’s an amazing place to hit. It’s a tough place to pitch. So you have to be a little careful of over-evaluating Fall League stuff . . .
"But I do think what he’s doing is really fun to watch.”
— Catcher Miguel Amaya was scheduled to have Tommy John surgery and begin a rehab program in December, further delaying the development of a top catching prospect who’s been on the 40-man roster since November 2019.
The 22-year-old spent the 2020 season at the club’s alternate training site and played 23 games for Double-A Tennessee in 2021 before getting shut down with a right elbow/forearm injury. If healthy, Amaya likely would have made his MLB debut at some point in 2021 and given the Cubs more information as they figure out how to proceed at one of the most important positions.
— Tom Myers, a longtime scout who covered Southern California for the Cubs, left the organization to join the Dodgers. Myers, who once managed Kyle Hendricks in the Cape Cod League, will work as an area scout for the Dodgers and also take on some responsibilities as a crosschecker and in player development, using his coaching background for a franchise that is viewed as the industry’s gold standard for developing players.