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2018 Red Sox top prospect voting: Yes, Hector Velazquez is a prospect

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Technically speaking, at least

MLB: Spring Training-Boston Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

We’re getting down towards the end of our top prospect list, and this time around we had an extremely close battle between two players with major-league experience and a couple of guys who figure to play key depth roles on the 2018 roster. In the end, we narrowly avoided our first tie of this exercise and Hector Velazquez squeaked out the victory and became our number 17 prospect in the system.

I’ll start by very quickly saying that yes, the 29-year-old Velazquez is indeed a prospect, though I understand the trepidation from some. While every outlet varies slightly, the basic definition of prospects around the ol’ interwebs has always been anyone eligible for the Rookie of the Year award, so that’s what we’re going with here. I see the arguments against it and it may be something I reconsider in the future, but also we’re talking about the number 17 prospect in a bad farm system, so. Ya know. Not the end of the world either way.

So, back to Velazquez the player. The right-handed just came over to the majors in 2017, but he’d been playing professionally for a while before that. He spent eight seasons pitching in the Mexican League, starting in his age-21 season. Over that time, he pitched to a 3.85 ERA with about seven strikeouts per nine innings and just about three walks per nine. He really started to come into his own at the end of his time there, though. In 2016, his last season in Mexico, he pitched in two leagues and all together he ended with a 2.41 ERA over 36 starts with 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings and just over one walk per nine. That was enough for the Red Sox to go out and make a way under-the-radar signing towards the end of last winter to bring Velazquez in as some potential depth.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Kansas City Royals Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

While the numbers in Mexico were impressive and the Red Sox presumably had some strong scouting reports that helped inform their decision to sign the righty in the first place, it was hard to be entirely certain of what to expect from Velazquez as he came over to the states. Unsurprisingly, the team started him in the minors in Triple-A Pawtucket. His time there wasn’t linear — he had a major-league stint in the middle — but overall Velazquez proved to be more than able to handle Triple-A opponents. In all, he made 19 starts in Pawtucket over 102 innings and he finished the year with a 2.21 ERA at the level with seven strikeouts per nine and just two walks per nine. That was enough for the relatively unknown pitcher to get some time in the majors, and he’d do well there as well. His first start was a disaster — he allowed six runs in five innings to the damn A’s — but after that things smoothed out. In his other seven outings, which spanned 19 23 innings, Velazquez allowed just two runs (0.92 ERA) with 15 strikeouts and five walks.

Scouting-wise, Velazquez isn’t anything special but we’ve seen that his package of tools can work at the major-league level even if it won’t blow anyone away. His stuff isn’t really great, but when he’s at his best the righty will hit his spots on a consistent basis and can live at the corners of the strike zone. That won’t necessarily lead to a ton of strikeouts, but he should be able to limit walks and induce some weak, frustrating contact. Velazquez does have a tendency to get in trouble at times and that can lead to implosions at the highest level, but he’s a skilled enough pitcher to serve as a back-end depth piece in the majors. As far as pitches go, he throws a low-90s fastball, a slider, a curveball and a changeup.

Looking ahead to the coming season, the expectation is for Velazquez to serve a similar role in 2018 as he did in 2017. He may start this campaign in Boston, but that’s because of the health of pitchers ahead of him on the depth chart, not his own merits and performance. Over the course of the year, he should see some time in Pawtucket and some time in Boston when the need arises. He’s not going to excite anyone when they see his name pencilled in as the days starter, but he showed in 2017 that he has the ability to serve as a dependable, solid back-end arm that can keep his lineup in games. That’s pretty good considering how low the expectations were when he was first signed just over a year ago.

Here’s our list so far:

  1. Jason Groome
  2. Michael Chavis
  3. Tanner Houck
  4. Bryan Mata
  5. Jalen Beeks
  6. Alex Scherff
  7. Sam Travis
  8. Mike Shawaryn
  9. Brian Johnson
  10. Josh Ockimey
  11. Cole Brannen
  12. Bobby Dalbec
  13. Darwinzon Hernandez
  14. C.J. Chatham
  15. Jake Thompson
  16. Roniel Raudes
  17. Hector Velazquez

Now, we move on to the eighteenth spot on our list. As always, head down into the comments and “rec” the comment corresponding the player for whom you’d like to vote. Make sure you’re a member of the blog before you do so of course. Additionally, if there is a player you’d like to vote for who is not listed, leave a comment of your own saying “Vote for Player X here”. That comment will count as his first vote. For more information on this system, scroll to the bottom of this post. Until next time...