When the LA Angels drafted Gregory Veliz in the 15th round of the 2019 Amateur Draft out of the University of Miami they saw the raw talent and the powerful right arm that he possesses.
LA Angels minor league prospect Gregory Veliz grew up in the small town of Key West, Florida, which is the Southernmost point in the United States. With water surrounding both sides of the town, the Gulf of Mexico on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other side there wasn’t far he could go. It was a three-hour drive to Miami and the Florida mainland.
After playing baseball for four years at Key West High School for the Fightin’ Conchs (a tropical marine mollusk that lives in a spiral shell), Veliz made the three hour trip to attend the University of Miami and play for the Hurricanes. While with the Hurricanes Veliz pitched as a starter in his freshman and sophomore year and had decent success going 6-5 with 3.28 ERA in 15 starts striking 92 batters in 79 innings of work.
However after pitching strictly as a reliever in the summer of 2018 in the Coe Cod Summer League, Veliz came back to UM and was placed in the bullpen where he flourishes for the Canes. In 30 games Veliz went 2-1 with a 2.55 ERA striking out 69 batters in only 42 innings of work and eight saves. Pitching in the ACC against the likes of Florida State, Virginia, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, and NC State gave Veliz tremendous confidence against tough competition, which Veliz said helped him prepare for being drafted.
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‘It prepared me pretty well going up against some of the best competition in college, playing in the ACC. My coaches at Miami were great and going up against all those top guys really helped me to be ready for pro ball,” Veliz said. “My time in Orem (rookie ball) this year went perfectly. I didn’t walk a batter in 11 innings there and I had 15 strike outs. It really gave me confidence that I can compete in the minors.”
Veliz possesses a 94-96 MPH fastball, but he said he likes to go with his slider to get strike outs and he can also throw a change-up. So far in five appearances in Burlington Veliz has pitched in 8 innings with a 3.52 ERA striking out six batters and walking four in that span.
The Bees used him right away in high leverage situations pitching Veliz in both the 8th and 9th innings. He has recorded two saves in three opportunities and has shown great poise and confidence on the mound.
When I watched Veliz pitch he reminded me of a young Scot Shields, who was one of the best relievers in Angels history. Veliz still has a long way to go, but his make-up and his ability to attack are qualities you don’t always see from young pitchers. According to Veliz all his success goes back to his roots, growing up in Key West.
“Key West is a big family. They say it takes a village to raise a child and it was definitely that,” said Veliz of his hometown. “They raised me and I’m a Key West product through and through, born and raised there. I love that place and will always call it home. I wouldn’t be here (minor leagues) today if it wasn’t for the people of Key West, that’s for sure.”
Like every prospect in the minor leagues Veliz has the lofty goal of making it to the majors and he hopes that through hard work and dedication that he will reach his goal one day. Burlington pitching coach Jonathan Van Eaton has been impressed so far with what he has seen from Veliz and he believes if he keeps developing that you will see Veliz on a big league mound one day.
“Greg has very good stuff. When he is most effective is when he is able to pound the zone. As long as he does that consistently, he will have success and could definitely make it to the majors,” Van Eaton said. “That’s what we try to do down here is help our pitchers to command the zone and if they can do that it will bring great success to them.”
Being that this is only Veliz’s first season in professional baseball it may be a few years before you will see him in Anaheim. However, with the way the Angels promote pitchers quickly when they show that good command coupled with having good stuff, this rise could come quicker for a guy like Veliz if he continues to have success in the low minors.
“When I found out that the Angels drafted it was amazing. It was breath-taking. This has been a dream of mine since I was born and I know if I can keep pounding the zone and keep developing I can make it to the majors,” Veliz said. “It would be amazing to play alongside some of the best players in the game like Shohei, Trout, and Simmons. This is a great organization and I’m so happy I was drafted by the Angels. It’s a true blessing.”