Guardians No. 4 prospect muscles way to first career 2-HR game

April 11th, 2024

For 26 minutes, Single-A Lynchburg first baseman watched Fredericksburg put up 10 runs in the first inning of Wednesday night’s game.

It may have lasted less than a half-hour, but it felt much longer for the Guardians' No. 4 prospect. Eight consecutive batters reached base to start the game, four walks were issued and two home runs left the yard. And while it wasn't particularly pleasant, it fueled Velazquez into having one of the best performances in his young career.

“You got to flush it,” he said after the 14-8 loss at Bank of James Stadium. “It lit a fire under us just go out there and put up some runs. I tried to be the best leader by getting behind my teammates in this situation.”

Velazquez made a statement in the bottom of the first frame, capitalizing on the second pitch he saw from right-handed Nationals prospect Bryan Sanchez -- a challenging inside offering -- to slug his first full-season affiliate home run, rocketing it over the right-field wall.

And that was just a preview of what was to come.

Down in the eighth inning, 14-5, the Guardians’ 2023 first-round pick (23rd overall) stepped into the batter’s box with runners on second and third. After taking two balls from righty Merrick Baldo, Velazquez slugged the third pitch for his second long ball of the night. At 18 years of age and only 10 games into his pro career, he'd already achieved a multihomer feat.

“I go up to every at-bat with the same confidence,” said Velazquez, who also drew two walks. “It doesn't matter if you're down 10-0, or if it’s 0-0. You have the play the game 100 percent all the time and give it your all.”

Known as a hitter with all of the tools and skills to hit for both average and power, Velazquez emerged on the scene last year, showcasing his talent at the National High School Invitational.

His performance -- 6-for-13 with six RBIs, three walks and just one strikeout -- was pivotal in Huntington Beach High School’s triumph in the prestigious prep tournament. It seemed only fitting that he recorded his first two homers of the campaign nearly a year after that breakout performance.

A lot has changed for Velazquez since then. He accomplished his lifelong dream of being drafted, got a taste of playing pro ball in the Rookie-level Arizona Complex League and participated in his first camp with the Guardians last year.

Velazquez was stoked to participate in affiliate ball for the first time. Although he admits he isn’t an emotional person, it was difficult for him to fight back tears as he experienced the pageantry of Opening Day last week during the season opener at Down East's Grainger Stadium.

He compared it to a scene from the videogame MLB The Show.

"It just felt like I was in Road to the Show,” Velazquez said. “[I’ve been] playing that game since I was little and seeing all these players make it up. It was just a bunch of emotions just like, 'Wow like, this is everything I've worked for.'

“It's been everything I've dreamed of. Obviously, I'm not to the point where I want to be yet. But still, this is an amazing feeling and an awesome organization to play for.”