Name: Miguel Velazquez
DOB: May 15, 1988
Acquired: 2006 Amateur Draft, 19th Round
As an amateur player, outfielder Miguel Velazquez was always regarded as one of the top talents in Puerto Rico. Most Major League clubs felt he had the raw talent to go in the first or second round of the draft.
However, personal and legal troubles detailed in this story published last year by Spokesman-Review writer Greg Lee dropped Velazquez to the 19th round of the 2006 draft, where the Texas Rangers took a shot on the talented athlete.
The outfielder eventually signed with the Rangers for a $72,000 bonus, and he made his debut the following summer, playing with the rookie-level AZL 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 to the states in 2009, though, and he immediately became one of the system's top position-player prospects.
Following an impressive short stint with the AZL Rangers to make sure he was prepared for game action, the Rangers promoted Velazquez to short-season Spokane.
Velazquez quickly became one of the team's most potent hitters, batting .297 with 12 doubles, two triples and 10 home runs in 54 games. The results weren't bad for a player that had been away from the game since 2007.
The 21-year-old is currently playing centerfield and batting in the middle of the Single-A Hickory order. He is off to an excellent start, batting .324 with a league-leading 1.024 OPS.
Also See: Velazquez ready for full-season challenge (April 3, 2010)
Rangers Minor League Notes (March 28, 2010)
Rangers Minor League Notes (March 20, 2010)
Top Prospects, Top Tools (February 11, 2010
Final Instructional League Report (October 27, 2009)
Rangers Instructs Report (October 10, 2009)
Prospect Videos: Miguel Velazquez takes batting practice
Batting and Power: Velazquez's calling card is his plus raw power, which is really beginning to show up in games so far this year. He has seven round-trippers in his first 105 at-bats with Single-A Hickory.
The 21-year-old has an interesting approach because he doesn't chase a lot of bad balls out of the strike zone, allowing him to take some walks. However, he is an aggressive hitter that swings through quite a few balls in the zone, as he rarely gets cheated on his swings. Velazquez will likely need to work on shortening up at times for more of a contact approach to improve his hit tool.
Overall, Velazquez's hit tool projects to about average, though he can certainly improve it as he moves up and gets challenged at the higher levels. In the Sally League, the prospect is simply a great mistake hitter that doesn't need to make any adjustments to succeed at his current level.
Base Running and Speed: Though his speed is currently a tick above average, it will probably end up at about average overall as he develops and finishes his physical maturation. Velazquez will rack up some steals at the lower levels [he currently has four in seven attempts], but the numbers will likely decline as he moves up.
Defense: Velazquez has a chance to be a tick above average defensively in the future, but he has some developing to do. Though he profiles as a corner outfielder, the Puerto Rico native is currently playing in center with Hickory to work on his reads and jumps off the bat, which have been inconsistent.
Likely a right fielder as he moves up, Velazquez has some athleticism to go with above-average arm strength. While he struggled with reads at times this spring, he was able to cover plenty of ground in the outfield when he got a good job.
Projection: With Justin Smoak's recent big league call-up, Velazquez may legitimately be the organization's best position-player prospect in the minors. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound slugger has the potential to become an everyday corner outfielder in the big leagues with above-average power, but he will need to refine a few areas of his game first, including the hit tool.
The phrase ‘five-tool player' is often thrown around when discussing Velazquez. While it's true that he doesn't really have a ‘minus' tool––everything is fringe-average or better––he certainly isn't a five-tool guy in the traditional sense of Alex Rodriguez or Carlos Beltran. Regardless, Velazquez is a very talented player overall with plus raw power, and he could be an impact hitter.
2010 Outlook: Velazquez is on a tear and currently dominating the Single-A Sally League. In fact, going into Saturday's action, Velazquez leads the circuit with a 1.024 OPS. He'll almost certainly reach the High-A California League at some point this season.
Velazquez is probably ready to handle the challenge right now, but it's obviously up to the Rangers when they want to promote him. With a decent enough approach and excellent raw power, he might not be seriously challenged until he reaches Double-A.
|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|