Cubs' Velazquez continues scorching AFL run

November 7th, 2021

SURPRISE, Ariz. – Cubs prospect Nelson Velazquez knew it was gone once the ball left his bat.

Everyone at Surprise Stadium knew, too.

The only question was if the first inning home run was going to sail over the bullpen beyond the wall in left field or land inside of it. For the record, it banged off the back of the wall in the bullpen.

“I was looking for my pitch and I got it,” Velazquez, 22, said in Spanish. “It was middle in, and it felt great to help my team get ahead early. Every player wants to do what he can to help the team win and I’m glad I had the opportunity.”

Velazquez’s two-run home run in the first inning put the Mesa Solar Sox ahead early and set the tone in the 12-9 victory against the Surprise Saguaros. The Solar Sox racked up 13 hits, including a pair of home runs in the victory.

“[Velazquez] has been on fire,” said Solar Sox manager Lance Rymel, who manages in the Cubs’ system. “He does a great job in his routine to get ready for the game and then he’s having all of the success in the world out there. He’s putting what he does behind the scenes on to the field and I couldn’t be happier for him.”

Velazquez, the Cubs' No. 29 prospect, finished with three hits, a walk, two runs scored and two RBIs. He’s hitting .392 in Arizona Fall League play with seven home runs, 17 RBIs and 20 runs scored in 17 games. During the regular season, Velazquez slashed .270/.333/.496 for High-A South Bend and Double-A Tennessee. Of his 104 hits last season, 20 were home runs and 23 were doubles. He also drove in 73 runs, stole 17 bases and scored 56 runs. He struck out 132 times.

“My goal here is to finish strong and one day make it to the Major Leagues,” said Velazquez, who is from Carolina, Puerto Rico. “I feel like I had a good year and I just want to build on that. Things that I worked on during the quarantine, I have been able to do that in games.”

Velazquez had plenty of help on Saturday.

Marlins 22nd-ranked prospect Kameron Misner, who hit the go-ahead two-run home run on Friday, hit another two-run home run in the top of the second to extend the Solar Sox lead to 4-1. Velazquez scored again in the third inning, this time on a double by Toronto’s top prospect Gabriel Moreno to extend the lead to 5-1.

Cubs prospect Luis Vazquez drove home Misner with a triple in the fourth and later scored to make 7-1. Vazquez finished with a pair of hits and two runs.

Andy Weber (Cubs), Moreno, and Troy Johnston (Marlins) also notched at two hits for the Solar Sox in the victory, the club’s 11th of the season.

The Saguaros did not go down easily, rallying for four runs in the final two innings, but it was not enough. The Solar Sox offense was just too much.

“It’s not just tonight, it’s almost every night,” Rymel said. “We got a great slugging team. Our hitting coaches, Tim Gibbons and Phil Plantier, do a great job getting the game plan in and we continue to execute it.”