Name: Miguel Velazquez
DOB: May 15, 1988
Acquired: 2006 Amateur Draft, 19th round
As an amateur player, outfielder Miguel Velazquez was regarded as one of his class' top talents in Puerto Rico. Most major league clubs felt that he had the raw talent to go within the first few rounds of the draft.
However, personal and legal troubles detailed in this 2009 story by Spokesman-Review writer Greg Lee dropped Velazquez to the 19th round of the 2006 draft, where the Texas Rangers took a chance on the talented athlete.
The outfielder eventually signed with Texas for a $72,000 bonus, and he made his debut the following summer, playing with the rookie-level Surprise Rangers. Velazquez had an outstanding debut, batting .330 with five doubles, two triples, two home runs, and seven steals in just 24 games.
After his debut campaign, Rangers minor league hitting coordinator Mike Boulanger was impressed with Velazquez's raw talent.
"He's a very exciting player," said Boulanger during a 2007 interview. "He's pretty much a five-tool guy. He's a guy that I project to play in the major leagues someday."
Unfortunately, Velazquez's troubles caused him to return to Puerto Rico and miss the entire 2008 season. According to Lee, Velazquez was forced to stay in his native country for the entire year, so the Rangers placed him on the restricted list. He received three years' probation.
The prospect was able to return state-side in 2009, though, and he picked up right where he left off.
Following an impressive short stint with the Surprise Rangers to make sure he was prepared for game action, Velazquez earned a promotion to short-season Spokane.
The prospect quickly became one of the team's most potent hitters, batting .297 with 12 doubles, two triples, and 10 round-trippers in 54 games. The results weren't bad for a player who had been away from the game since 2007.
Velazquez opened his 2010 campaign at Single-A Hickory and got off to a torrid start, posting a .306/.372/.565 slash line in 22 April contests. He belted 27 extra-base hits during the first half and earned a spot in the South Atlantic League's home run derby.
But the 22-year-old, playing a full season for the first time, appeared to wear down as the season progressed. He fell into a slump early in the second half, recording hits in only six of his final 14 games with the Crawdads.
Feeling he may be re-energized by a new challenge, the Rangers bumped Velazquez up to High-A Bakersfield at the beginning of July. And following a strong start, he once again cooled off.
Overall, Velazquez batted .270 with six doubles, five homers, 12 walks, and 38 strikeouts in his 48 games with the Blaze.
His season ended prematurely, as the Rangers placed him on the suspended list for undisclosed reasons on August 22. He returned home and didn't play in another game for the remainder of the season.
Also See: Rangers Minor League Notes (March 20, 2010)
Rangers Minor League Notes (March 29, 2010)
Velazquez ready for full-season challenge (April 3, 2010)
Breaking down the Hickory Crawdads (April 5, 2010)
Batting and Power: Velazquez's game power is currently just a tick above average, but he has excellent strength and bat speed to go along with some natural lift in his swing. He has the potential for plus (60-grade) power and can put on impressive displays during batting practice. While the hit tool lags slightly behind, it could become a tick above average in the future. The prospect can fall into trouble with an overly aggressive approach, although he has some pitch recognition skills and shows the ability to make contact.
Base Running and Speed: The 6-foot-2, 205-pound prospect's decent base running instincts let his average to solid-average speed play up a bit. An aggressive runner at times, he swiped 15-of-20 stolen bases between Single-A Hickory and High-A Bakersfield last season. Velazquez may eventually get a little thicker in his lower half and could lose some speed, but he should be good for 10-15 steals per season as he progresses.
Defense: Though he played 74 of his 119 games last season in center field, Velazquez profiles as a corner outfielder at the upper levels. His best defensive tool is a 60-grade arm that gives him the ability to play in right field. He moves around well in the outfield, showing good athleticism, and the pure range is at least solid-average. At present, Velazquez rates as a fringy defender due to his occasional struggles with off-the-bat reads and route-running. But he has all the necessary tools and should become a good defender over time.
Projection: If Velazquez maximizes his hit tool and shores up the route-running, he has the potential to become an everyday big league corner outfielder. The tools are solid across-the-board, with none rating below average and a couple (raw power, arm) landing firmly in the ‘plus' category. His complete skill-set could still make him a solid reserve even if he doesn't ultimately hit for enough average to play regularly. Velazquez, who has the previously documented off-the-field history, is a highly competitive player that still must learn to control his emotions.
2011 Outlook: After finishing last season with High-A Bakersfield, Velazquez is likely to return to the High-A level when the 2011 season begins––this time going to Myrtle Beach. Velazquez is physically mature and shows flashes of excellence, but he'll need to show more consistency before he's ready to move up. He will be 23-years-old on May 15 and could reach Double-A Frisco if he has first-half success with the Pelicans.
|2007||AZL Rangers (RK)||.330||94||5||2||21||18||7/8||7||27||.381||.489|
|2009||AZL Rangers (RK)||.294||34||0||1||6||7||1/1||4||11||.385||.500|