For months, Andrew Velazquez was sticking in the Los Angeles Angels lineup because of his defense. He was — by every metric — the Angels’ best defender, especially in the infield. As injuries to David Fletcher and Anthony Rendon piled up, his consistent presence at shortstop was a welcomed sight for Halos pitchers.
However, he remained in the lineup despite abysmal numbers at the plate. Through Aug. 8, Velazquez was batting .173 with a .477 OPS and had just one hit in his previous nine games. But recently, things have started to click in his batting approach.
In his last 44 plate appearances, the versatile shortstop is batting .341 with a .932 OPS. He has three home runs — two against the Toronto Blue Jays this past weekend — and has scored nine runs. Of course, his season numbers are still well below replacement level, but the recent change could bring about some hope for his future with the team.
Velazquez believes the change in his production stems from a new approach involving the type of contact he’s trying to make, according to Jeff Fletcher of The O.C. Register:
“I’d say I’m focused on being on top of the ball,” Velazquez said. “That results in more balls in play, so you get a little more cheap hits and then when you run into one, sometimes they go out.”
Velazquez also admitted that his bump in quality of at-bats could be a result of fewer plate appearances, as his playing time has dipped since Fletcher returned to the lineup.
“Now seeing it, I kind of agree,” said Velazquez, who is listed at 5-feet-9, 170 pounds. “I think being fresh, especially at my stature and weight, that’s something to think about for next season. Maybe gain some weight, while maintaining my speed.”
With a 91st percentile sprint speed and a 90th percentile outs above average at the shortstop position, it’s possible that gaining weight to be more durable could cause him to be less effective in his best attributes.
However, if playing every day results in lower quality at-bats and worse production at the plate, it would severely limit the opportunities available to him at the Major League level. Before next season, he must find a happy medium between the two.
But for now, he can enjoy this ongoing hot streak with the Angels’ season winding down to a close.
Shohei Ohtani’s heroic efforts lift Angels
Shohei Ohtani’s Saturday and Sunday performances against the Blue Jays were yet another reminder of the type of dominance the two-way star can wield. On Saturday, Ohtani pitched a 7.0-inning gem, giving up zero runs on two hits and one walk.
On Sunday, Ohtani went 3-for-4 with a walk, a home run, and two RBIs. Both Mike Trout and Tucker Davidson praised Ohtani’s efforts following the sweep.