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Cubs Prospect Perspective: Nelson Velazquez

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This Cubs prospect is tearing up the Arizona Fall League.

Photo by Norm Hall/MLB Photos via Getty Images

I hadn’t planned to do one of these on Nelson Velazquez. I wrote this article recently about him regarding a 40-man roster coin-flip, and how much can really change on a player in two or three weeks, after all?

In answering that question, it became obvious that Velazquez pretty much required a second look before the November 19 deadline date. Not only had “enough” happened, but his story provides a very good backdrop on another one of the aspects I like to follow in my Cubs writing. I will get there soon, in this profile of Velazquez.

Some want to find out how a player will do two or three levels higher than he currently is playing. I’ve quit taking that bait. If someone in the Cubs pipeline is doing well against his current competition, whatever that is, I’m happy for that. When the spring affiliate rosters come out, I’m happy for people debuting at a new level, especially full-season or Double-A. For me, it isn’t any more about he has to do well against MLB players for me to be happy, any more than I should be happy for my nieces or nephew reaching a career goal. As long as they’re giving a solid effort and not making a fool of the organization, I’m happy for them.

Velazquez has not only done better after two different promotions, he’s seemingly “broken the game” each time. (My term “broken the game” harkens back to my idea of players getting a “player development” dice roll each month. The celestial game maker rolls a twenty-side die, and how the player develops that month hinges on the die roll. Roll a 2, have an injury-plagued month. Roll a 10, you get slightly better. Roll a 19, you step forward, notably. Roll a 20, and you completely change everything to the positive. Velazquez has rolled two or three 20s in a row.) When I wrote about him before, his defense was ordinary. Now, his arm is both rather strong and relatively accurate. He’s completely worth a 40-man roster spot, and... worth following in 2022. Wherever that is.

The deeper meaning I completely ran into involves time. Velazquez, whose Arizona Fall League OPS is currently a comical 1.167, is the same guy that pro pitchers were regularly getting out in South Bend in High-A Ball. Before the two or three 20s in a row. Is he the same player, or a different player? The entire premise plays entirely toward anything in baseball with a deadline; either trades or the draft.

When a deadline exists, the important thing is have as much useful knowledge as possible before that deadline. Even seconds before. When the Cubs traded eight players in July, they had until a deadline to completely rototill all the information that they had on players in those organizations. Health information, willingness to work hard in practice, numbers developing in their development.

Similarly, regarding the Draft, the Cubs have an entire Draft class to possess information on. Before the process occurs, whenever that will be. It could be in June. It could be in July. For instance, four of my top 12 (the Cubs select seventh) are preps in the Atlanta area. As of today, I’d be good (at that seventh pick) with infielder Termarr Johnson, outfielder Druw Jones (son of former Atlanta center fielder Andruw Jones), infielder Cam Collier, or right-handed fireballer Dylan Lesko. All preps, in line for the seventh pick in the draft. The Cubs have until the deadline to have those four completely prioritized. What happens after the draft (health-wise, specifically), the Cubs front office can’t be held accountable for. They’re supposed to know what happens before, for all the players, at all the schools, for all the rounds.

With Velazquez, in early August he was a fringe 40-man addition. By early September, he was an odds-on favorite. Now, Cubs fans are clamoring for him to get put on a fast-track that likely doesn’t exist. It’s amusing to me how a Cubs fifth-round outfield pick is forcing his way onto the 40 at the same time fifth-round infield pick Andy Weber is pushing his name onto the 40-man discussion, as well. Maybe the Cubs internal development of hitters isn’t worthless, after all.

Now, more Velazquez highlights.