The Los Angeles Angels made their first move of the offseason, albeit a minor one. They claimed middle infielder Andrew Velazquez off waivers from the New York Yankees.
Velazquez, currently 27 years old, was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the seventh round of the 2012 amateur draft when he was just 18. Before ever playing a game at the Major League level, he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays.
He finally made his MLB debut with the Rays in 2018 at age 23. Midway through the 2019 season, the Rays traded Velazquez to the newly named Cleveland Guardians. After playing just five games in total with the Guardians, he was waived and claimed by the Baltimore Orioles.
He played 40 games of the shortened 2020 season with the Orioles, but struggled mightily at the plate, becoming a free agent following the year. He signed with the New York Yankees, where he bounced between the big league team and Triple-A all season.
With the Yankees, his numbers left much to be desired. In 28 games and 68 plate appearances, Velazquez carried an OPS of .594 with solid fielding numbers at the shortstop position. While his big league numbers can be improved, he was impressive in Minor League play.
In 77 Triple-A games in 2021, Velazquez reached an .813 OPS and showed off his incredible speed with 29 stolen bases. In fact, his sprint speed ranks in the 96th percentile in MLB, according to Baseball Savant.
This move by the Angels could be a harmless November waiver claim, or it could point to their larger strategy. Velazquez is a shortstop and second baseman with a similar batting profile to Jack Mayfield.
It’s possible that this move proves their commitment to spending big on pitchers, while going for cheap, stopgap options to fill their hole at the shortstop position. Getting Velazquez could be the first of several minor moves to start a Spring Training battle for the starting shortstop role in 2022.
David Fletcher, Jared Walsh named Gold Glove finalists
If Velazquez does wind up being the starting shortstop for the Angels in 2022 — which is unlikely at the moment — he would be joining an infield with two Gold Glove finalists.
Fletcher and Walsh were named finalists for their defensive work at second and first base respectively.