In a day and age where the game is centered around offensive statistics (especially home runs), many small aspects of the game of baseball are pretty quickly forgotten as they are drowned with highlights of mammoth home runs. However, as everyone knows; LA Angels Manager Joe Maddon likes to play the game a different way. Liking to play "small ball," Maddon prioritizes players who can run, play defense, and bunt very well to help the team win games. That is where Andrew Velazquez fits in.
Acquired by the Angels this offseason, Velazquez has used his amazing glove and great speed to make his way into the lineup every day. Even though he hasn't hit well at all at the plate this season, carrying a .190 batting average, Maddon still loves him.
Outside of struggling at the plate, he's helped the team win in every other way. He currently sits at third in the American League in Defensive WAR with 0.7. Additionally, he has a 100 percent successful steal percentage on each of his six stolen bases.
Andrew hasn't really had much of a chance to showcase these skills on any other team however. Being drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks, he's bounced around to five different teams; the most recent one being with the LA Angels. With the prior teams he hasn't played more than 40 games in a season. This year is different though.
With David Fletcher going on the IL with a shoulder injury that will keep him out months, the middle infield has been up for the taking. Regardless of how he's performed at the plate, Velazquez has been a great anchor for the defense at shortstop which will allow him to play every single day, but that could easily change.
Andrew Velazquez's future with the LA Angels.
Now even if Andrew Velazquez wins a gold glove and steals a lot of bases for the LA Angels, his sub .200 average isn't going to cut it. Yes, it is early on in the season and he hasn't had a lot of consistent play in the major leagues throughout his career, but no team is going to let him stay in the lineup with his current hitting performance. Now that he's been given this big window of guaranteed playing time, he really needs to perform on both sides of the ball.
As seen in the past, Maddon will plug and play a lot of hot hitters into the lineup, even substituting them in for some of their consistent players. If Luis Rengifo, or even a minor league prospect shows some promise, we could start to see Maddon give them a shot on the major league roster. That could mean more competition for Velazquez at shortstop and his poor hitting could mean the difference between him or another candidate playing over him.
Obviously nobody expected Velazquez to be a major part of the team this year because of his small amount of experience. Now that he's been the everyday shortstop for 33 games, however, we need to start evaluating if he's good enough to be the Halo shortstop for a postseason run. Missing out on the big free agent shortstops like Carlos Correa and Trevor Story, this season has shown that the Angels need more depth in their middle infield.
As aforementioned, Velazquez has been elite defensively for the team this season, but defense in 2022 doesn't effect the outcome of the game as much as good offensive performances do. At some point if Velazquez's defense shows inconsistency you could see Maddon looking in other directions, but if his plate performance improves a bit he might stick with him the rest of the way.
There still is a possibility Anaheim even adds a shortstop at the trade deadline too. Besides pitching, the shortstop position is the biggest spot LA needs to still figure out. Whether that be sometime this season or over the offseason it's going to need to get addressed.
Overall, I don't expect Velazquez to be the shortstop of the future, but his current role is still extremely important to the success of the team this season because of all the injuries. Hopefully, he can get it going at the plate here soon to add to his already impressive defensive skillset and we continue to see him make web gems for what seems to be every single night.