Tip of the cap to Giants beatwriter Andrew Baggarly for the news on Velez’s return. He’ll be replacing Brian Horwitz’s spot on the roster. Velez experienced a brief run of 121 AB’s earlier in the season before the Giants sent him packing to AAA Fresno in order to work some kinks out of his game. After a pretty good spring* Velez looked completely out of place at the major league level. He got picked off, made errors, never hit, and didn’t steal bags that well for a guy with blinding speed.* A reminder to the future you when you’re all excited about Player X who’s having a great Spring Training showing, remember Velez and tell yourself that Spring Training stats don’t mean anything.
By any metric you slice it, Velez’s time with the Giants earlier in the year was bad. He was worse than any theoretical replacement level player that you could dredge up from the depths of any AAA roster. To Velez’s credit, when he returned to the minor leagues he didn’t entirely melt down. He hit a respectable-ish (.308/.371/.503) over 39 games and 159 AB’s.
Still, if you ever needed any confirmation that the PCL might be a hitters league, check out Velez’s slugging. The good news is that Velez’s BB% in AAA was higher than it was when he was in the majors — 9% to 4.8% — but he’s striking out a little more in AAA when compared to his time in the majors — 17% to 14.3%. Velez also has a gaudy BABIP of .358 in Fresno, which isn’t so gaudy when you notice that he’s hitting line drives at a rate of 24%.
If you use MLE’s from Velez’s half-season in Fresno and translate it to what his equivalent performance in the MLB would be, you get the following. Also, a note, I’m using Dan Szymborski’s excellent zMLE spreadsheet for my translations.
League BA OBP SLG OPS AAA PCL .308 .371 .503 .874 MLB .283 .329 .428 .757
Keep in mind that this isn’t a prediction, just a translation of what Velez has done. But, if Velez could perform around the same level as his translation in his second trip with the Giants, it would be a huge upgrade from his origininal (.207/.244/.322) debacle.
What hurts Velez is his glove. He still lacks a true defensive position and the hopes that he might turn into a Chone Figgins may have been too high. What makes matters worse is that he’s been primarly playing LF in AAA Fresno — 23 LF, 18 2B, 1 RF — and the Giants won’t need him in the OF. When it comes down to it, Velez is most likely going to have to be a 2B to find a fit with the Giants, unless he’s purely a pinch-runner which seems to run opposite to what the Giants wanted Velez to get in Fresno, that being playing time. A mid-700 OPS left fielder isn’t good. And for those hoping that Velez will add some value with his legs, his 13 steals out of 21 attempts leaves a lot to be desired. That works out to a 62% steal rate.
The silver lining to bringing Velez back to San Francisco is that a potential trade is in the works. The Brewers have been rumored to have some interest in Ray Durham and Jack Taschner and the Giants might be preparing to make a move. Thus, they could need a warm body like Velez to stand at 2B for the rest of the season. But, I still think I’d rather give Denker a shot at playing 2B. Like Velez, he’s supposed to be weak defensively, but his bat might play a little at the MLB level.
After Velez’s first crash-and-burn with the Giants I posed the question of “Will he get another 250 AB’s in a Giants uni?”. I didn’t think so then and I still don’t think so now, but that’s a little less than half a season of AB’s and with Velez back in San Francisco, it’s possible. Stranger things have happened.
Comment Starter: Like the return of Velez? If not, who would you have called up?