After the Los Angeles Angels lost David Fletcher to a hip injury that required surgery and will keep him sidelined for a few months, they turned to infielder Andrew Velazquez who was playing for their Triple-A affiliate, the Salt Lake Bees.
Prior to coming to L.A., Velazquez spent time in Arizona, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Baltimore, and with the New York Yankees, but the Angels needed a steady glove up the middle. After his call-up, he quickly became a fan favorite and a favorite within the Angels clubhouse.
Velazquez currently leads all of baseball in defensive value per FanGraphs and is No. 1 in outs above average. His ability to fill in the void left by Fletcher has been seamless, and in other stops around MLB, organizations, and fans have taken note of his talent with the glove too, via Jeff Fletcher of the O.C. Register:
While he was in the Arizona system, coaches began calling him Squid. It was partly the fact that he played such smooth defense, as if he had eight arms. Also, the sound at the start of the word “squid” sounded like the middle of “Velazquez,” he said.
The name stuck. Now, no one calls him Andrew except his mother.
“I prefer Squid,” he said.
Teams usually have something to rally around, whether it’s the hang-loose sign with the L.A. Dodgers, the cowboy hat after the Angels hit a home run, or hanging a lot of their defensive mojo around the middle infielder known as Squid, L.A. has made it another thing of their own:
As the Angels prepared for their cross-country flight to New York, the players were paying homage to shortstop Andrew Velazquez with a “Dress Like Squid” theme.
A day earlier, all the players had been distributed T-shirts with a cartoon squid on the front, with five baseball gloves on its arms. On the back was the message: “70% of the world is covered by water. The rest is covered by Squid.”
His teammates take notice of his certain style off the field and the type of game he brings while playing stellar defense on the field. This has made him someone teammates love to be around, and it shows with their dress like Squid theme:
“He’s true to himself,” Bradley said. “That’s why we’re dressing the way we are today. I think it’s a testament to just the way he is as a person and the swag he brings on and off the field.”
The Angels weren’t quite sure what to expect from Velazquez from an offensive standpoint, but his fielding and personality are playing an important role with the club.
Angels improving defense thanks to utilizing the shift
The Angels ended the 2021 season as one of the worst defensive teams in MLB, but a change in personnel and philosophy has turned L.A. into one of MLB’s best.
Last year, the Angels finished with -29 defensive runs saved, -29 outs above average, and a -26.2 ultimate zone rating. All ranked in the bottom five in MLB, which helped earn them a 77-85 record, good for fourth in the American League West.
But this season the Angels and infield coach Mike Gallego have transformed their unit and wholly bought into the numbers. With Andrew Velazquez playing up the middle and a key to their improvement in positioning, L.A. has transformed itself into a top-end unit defensively in the areas they had previously struggled.
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