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Cubs 40-man roster coin-flips: Nelson Velazquez

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The Cubs outfield prospect is doing well in the Arizona Fall League.

Photo by Taylor Jackson/MLB Photos via Getty Images

I have been accused of wandering from the path of talking about baseball in my baseball articles. Today’s will see me do that again. Your patience is appreciated.

While the sixth game of the AL Championship Series was happening last Friday, I was listening to Game 1 of the 1971 AL Championship Series instead. That followed with a string of non-baseball stuff on YouTube, the last five minutes or so minutes of the Bulls game in Chicago, and a side project. Occasionally, I’d check Twitter, but my project requires visual attention, and I was only checking in every fifteen minutes or so. During one of my delays, I found that Cubs prospect Nelson Velazquez was having a beast of a night. (If games were being audio-streamed, I’d have probably listened.) Here follows my coin-flip call on Nelson Velazquez.

Alternate view:

My focus for most of the rest of this is on baseball-based decision-making. For many people, familiarity is the go-to. I’m probably largely in this camp. I listen to minor league or college games to create familiarity with certain players, some of whom are likely to be drafted. Others are climbing their pipeline. Sans familiarity, it’s tough to judge. If I see that a quality organization has DFAd a semi-known player, I often scurry to research. Players totally basic to MLB-only baseball fans are often unclear to me.

As this information bombards me, it’s 100 percent up to me to assess if the incoming information sways me, or not. If so, why? If not, what would be required? If I’m writing a player off for being a Sagittarius or for being from a state that begins with C, that’s pretty stupid and disrespectful of me. I should assess information on how likely it is to change my opinions (either way) if a player will move the needle or not. As to whether I’m any good at that is up for debate with every article. With Velazquez, as he has a monster night...

... I try to decide if this pushes me in one direction or the other.

The other main angle is the timeline. Imagine for a second you have 60 priority points to put on the next six Cubs seasons. For many people, the priority will be at least 50 of the points on the upcoming season with the other priority points scattered over the next five years. Whether I think that’s wise or not, it’s common practice. The people who put similar values on the present and future are generally the people that have read this far. Either way, people who are prioritizing 2022 over 2023 and beyond are likely more willing to “take a risk” on trying to get Velazquez through waivers. After all:

  • He’s not considered strong defensively.
  • He’s never played above Double-A.
  • He’s a bit of a pop-up guy.
  • The Cubs already figure to have Rafael Ortega, Ian Happ, Jason Heyward, Greg Deichmann, Alexander Canario and likely at least one other on the 40-man roster.
  • 2022 is sacred.
  • When have the Cubs ever gotten value out of a later round pick?
  • He’s so unfamiliar.

Here’s the thing. The goal is not to sanitize the process. These decisions are hard, and harmful, if done poorly.

For example, the Twins, seeking one last bite at the apple, left Akil Baddoo unprotected last cycle. Detroit swooped in and claimed him. Even if a bit piece in 2021, with a trip to Triple-A in 2022, he’d have still made sense. He’s a capable center fielder, has really good speed, and might hit. Whether any specific non-executive knew about him or not then, dismissing Baddoo for any reason 12 months ago would have called into question the assessment of what was known then. The executive decisions put him on the roster or not. The assessments of the fans, while far more trivial, still merit review. A Twins fan who said “I’m good with leaving Baddoo off the roster” was just as wrong as the executive. If the goal is “get the decisions right,” not protecting Baddoo failed.

Nelson Velazquez, a fifth-rounder in 2017 out of Puerto Rico, had an OPS of .938 in a brief spell Double-A in 2021. His time in the Arizona Fall League has been an improvement over that. When it comes to a 40-man spot, Velazquez earned my stamp of approval through August. He’s too good to let a team that likes collecting mashers get him for $100,000. Yes, the collection of not-particularly likely contributors makes that problematic. It boils to, if your entire credibility into the next three centuries was hinged on getting this decision right, Jason Heyward’s contract is entirely immaterial.

Now it’s your turn. You get to assess, based on whatever knowledge you’ve received, whether he belongs on the 40-man roster or not. Assess the situation. Whether you’re in agreement with the Cubs or not, or if he’s with the Cubs or not, make your decision. As more information comes in (for instance, if you ever see him on the television or in person), assess whether your opinion is the same in March than it is now. Yeah, that’s a bit heavy, but catching the Dodgers and the Astros won’t be done by criticizing past moves by the front office. It will, or won’t, be accomplished by this front office being competent. Or better than that.

I welcome contrary opinions. If you oppose rostering him, bring your best reason. That will be fine, whether I agree or not. Especially if you hold your opinion to the highest standard, as people do to executives regarding unpopular trades. Make a decision. Have a reason for it. Learn from it if you’re wrong. Or, be supportive, if that’s too heavy.

Poll

Should Nelson Velazquez be placed on the Cubs’ 40-man roster?

This poll is closed

  • 86%
    Yes
    (286 votes)
  • 13%
    No
    (43 votes)
329 votes total Vote Now