When the Los Angeles Angels lost David Fletcher to a hip injury early in the season, there were questions about how the team would replace the fan-favorite utility infielder.
Although Fletcher isn’t known for his offensive prowess, he acted as a spark plug for the team, and as one of their best fielders, it had the potential to cause problems defensively.
The Angels turned to Velazquez, who was in Triple-A Salt Lake posting a 1.138 on-base plus slugging (OPS). Regardless if it was in five games, the club believed he could fill the void, at least defensively, left by Fletcher’s absence.
Velazquez was the 243rd pick in the 2012 Major League Baseball draft and with stops in Arizona, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Baltimore, the New York Yankees, and now the Angels, many questioned if he was an MLB quality player with a career OPS of .495. But Velazquez was confident he could stick if given the opportunity, via Sam Blum of The Athletic:
“I think so,” Velazquez said when asked if he felt he was a big-league shortstop. “You’ve got to prove it, though. It’s not a given. You’ve got to earn it every day. I had Aaron Judge tell me he was fighting for a spot every day last year. Aaron Judge. I think that’s the mindset everybody should have.”
“I feel that way, and everybody feels that way.”
Manager Joe Maddon has also loved what he’s seen from the slick-fielding Velazquez. He even feels the 27-year-old has proved enough that he might have earned a season-long spot with the Angels after bouncing around with four other organizations:
“I think (Velazquez is) as good of an infielder as I’ve seen,” Maddon said. “What you’re seeing is not a fluke. His technique is outstanding. … He’s a real shortstop. (Fletcher is), but that guy is legit.”
Defensive shortstops aren’t valued like they used to be but in 262.2 innings at shortstop this season, Velazquez is tied for seventh in MLB with five defensive runs saved, and on a team that ranks at the top in multiple offensive categories, they can benefit from sure-handed infielders.
Angels sign veteran Juan Lagares
Before the Angels’ comeback win over the Washington Nationals in the final game of their three-game series, L.A. added some necessary outfield depth with the addition of the veteran Juan Lagares on a Minor League deal.
The Angels sent Jo Adell down to Triple-A after struggling early in the 2022 season. His .231/.242/.431 slash mixed with his incredibly poor defense was enough to prompt the front office to make that move.
With the recent emergence of Brandon Marsh, a platoon with Lagares against southpaws could deepen the Angels lineup and create more plus-matchups. Lagares spent 112 games with L.A. last season and is now back with the organization.
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