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2023 Cubs player profiles: Nelson Velázquez

38th in a series. Nelson Velázquez needs to improve in several areas to be an effective major league player — he certainly has the potential but might find himself on another squad.

Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Christmas is probably an issue at the Velázquez house, as Nelson Javier Velázquez was born December 26, 1998. But that’s a long way away, and in the offseason, so we needn’t bother with that.

The Puerto Rican native came to the Cubs in 2017, as he was chosen 30th in the fifth round, the 165th overall pick. He has done very well in the minors — boasting a slash of .257/.327/.792, and both his 2023 minor-league and major-league lines are better than that.

He was an Organization Rising Star, Organization All-Star, and an AFL MVP in 2021, and debuted in the major leagues May 30, 2022. He did not excel, ending up with a line of .205/.288/.373 in 185 at-bats, with 65 strikeouts (roughly 28 percent).

Still, he spent nearly half of the season as a Chicago Cub and did provide some value and some hope for a brighter future.

His 2023 cup of coffee was better, as he logged a line of .241/.313/.621 in29 at-bats. He has good power from the right side, and the ball goes a long way when he makes contact, but he needs to improve that contact rate. BABIP is not too bad at .273 in his MLB career, but that could be improved also with a more selective approach.

Velázquez has a ton of raw power and decent speed to go get the ball, but his routes aren’t the best and his anticipation isn’t very good. He can sub as a corner outfielder, has subbed as a center fielder but is not exactly good at those positions and likely projects as more of a DH type, where he slots in behind the slightly-more-advanced Christopher Morel, and so he is unlikely to log much time in Chicago at present and in the immediate future, and might be an attractive trade chip.

At 24, he is on the border between prospect and suspect and will have to prove his worth. With a little more patience, he could represent as a Jorge Soler type and enjoy a decent MLB career. If he was good defensively, he’d be up to stay.

His future is a little cloudy as a result, but there is definitely a silver lining, as he possesses a lot of loud tools. He just needs to take a couple of steps forward. Fangraphs says: “Velazquez’s power should lead to some fat peak years, while his approach is apt to create some lean, low-OBP campaigns. On balance he projects as a thumping five- or six-hole hitter on a good team.”

His ultimate future remains to be seen. 2024 will be interesting for Nelson Velázquez. He is under club control for a long time, as he’ll reach ARB1 status in 2026, so he HAS a future unless he is traded.