One of the most unsung contributors of the 2022 regular season was the performance of veteran infielder Andrew Velazquez, who filled in around the Los Angeles Angels infield when they needed a steady glove.
The 28-year-old has bounced around with multiple Major League Baseball teams since his debut with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2018, and this past season he played a key role when he posted a career defensive season at shortstop for the Angels.
Once mainstay David Fletcher went down with an injury, ‘Squid’ proved his value to the team by means of his glove.
With a combined on-base plus slugging of .540 in 2022, Velazquez revealed he would be making some changes in the batter’s box by continuing his work as a switch-hitter, via Jeff Fletcher of the O.C. Register:
Infielder Andrew Velazquez said Sunday he is still a switch-hitter, despite a brief experiment hitting exclusively from the right side just before he hurt his knee last season.
Velazquez made strides in the offseason, but at times last year he displayed a subtle output on offense, and the only place to go is up with his light-hitting ways:
He said he decided over the winter that there was “still something viable” in his left-handed swing, so instead of abandoning it, he reworked it. Velazquez said he “reconstructed” his swings from both sides of the plate over the winter with a private hitting coach in Florida, in consultation with Angels hitting coaches Marcus Thames and Phil Plantier.
If he has indeed figured out how to increase his value by the way of switch-hitting, his positional versatility coupled with his ability to erase a handedness matchup would make Velazquez a solid commodity and could push him into the full time starting role:
“(Velazquez) knows where he stands with us,” Nevin said. “So we’ve been honest with him and if (switch hitting is) what he wants to do, and that’s what he feels is going to make him better, then we’re going to start the spring training that way.”
General manager Perry Minasian adding Brandon Drury and Gio Urshela to the infield mix does take some pressure off of Velazquez but at this stage of his career, any increase in playing time is welcomed by the fifth-year MLB infielder.
The early favorite to start at shortstop in 2023 is Luis Rengifo, but he will face competition from Velazquez and Fletcher.
Anthony Rendon using Spring Training to his advantage
Heading into his fourth year with the Angels, Anthony Rendon, outside of the 2020 shortened year, hasn’t played more than 58 games in a season. With two injury-heavy seasons under his belt, the two-time Silver Slugger is preparing for a key 2023 campaign.
Unfortunately for the Angels’ third baseman, he’s been on the wrong end of some bad luck after being regarded as one of Major League Baseball’s most feared hitters during the Washington Nationals’ hot stretch leading up to their World Series season in 2019.
This past season he posted a .706 on-base plus slugging with five home runs, 24 RBI in 47 games.
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