Velazquez closing in on AFL MVP

November 19th, 2021

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Nelson Velazquez is simply having one of those stretches where everything is clicking.

The Cubs’ No. 29 prospect has been locked in throughout the Arizona Fall League and has shown no signs of slowing down. Velazquez is among the league leaders in several offensive categories and is slashing .385/.480/.712 with 24 RBIs after a perfect 3-for-3, three-RBI performance in Mesa’s 3-1 win over Salt River on Thursday night at Salt River Fields.

“Just be ready for the fastball, be on time for the fastball and on time with the breaking ball as well,” Velazquez said. “That’s what I was thinking tonight.”

The approach, as it has all season, worked and Velazquez squared up everything thrown his way. He scorched a 111.1 mph double off the left-center-field wall in the first inning to extend his hitting streak to five games. Velazquez then tacked on run-scoring singles in both the third and fifth innings, the latter of which had a 107.8 mph exit velocity.

“I know I have the power, so all I try to do is try to be on time with the pitches because I know if I hit the call, I can hit the ball hard,” Velazquez said. “If I’m on time and I hit the ball hard, I know good things can happen.”

Those good things have been happening on a daily basis for Velazquez. The 22-year-old has multiple hits in 13 of the 26 games he’s played and has strung together three or more hits in five of those contests.

A fifth-round pick from the 2017 Draft, Velazquez slashed .270/.333/.496 over 103 games with High-A South Bend and Double-A Tennessee during the 2021 season. He hit a career-best 20 homers -- nearly doubling his previous high of 11 set in 2018 -- and collected 73 RBIs, another career-high in the process.

Even more impressive is a look at the numbers Velazquez posted once he was promoted to Tennessee. In his first taste of the upper levels, Velazquez hit .290 with eight homers over 34 games.

“I tried to find a way to be good, do what I can do,” Velazquez said. “A lot of people know what I can do. I know what I can do. I just put in the work.”

That strong AFL performances gives the Cubs plenty to think about as Velazquez is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft and needs to be added to the 40-man roster prior to Friday’s deadline if the Cubs want to protect him.

He’s certainly made a compelling case to be added to the roster, but he’s not focused on that decision at the moment. Instead, he’s looking ahead at the overall bigger picture.

“My goal is to go to The Show,” Velazquez said. “[I want to] keep doing what I’m doing right now in 2022 and we’ll see what happens.”

Velazquez and Marlins prospect Kameron Misner were the only two players with multiple hits in the pitchers duel.

Michael Dominguez (Blue Jays) got the start for Mesa and twirled four no-hit innings. The right-hander struck out two, walked two and retired 12 of the 15 batters he faced as he picked up his first win of the fall.