Baltimore Orioles: Andrew Velazquez Standing Out Among Utility Group
Can Andrew Velazquez win a roster spot with the Baltimore Orioles this spring?
The list of Baltimore Orioles competing for a utility job this spring training is extremely long, but as Grapefruit League games have kicked off, one name, in particular, has slightly stood out above the rest.
Spring training is far from being over and the winner of this competition won’t be decided for a long time, but Andrew Velazquez has had an early impact in the competition for an Opening Day roster spot.
With a likely infield starting lineup of Chris Davis at first, Hanser Alberto at second, Jose Iglesias at shortstop, and Rio Ruiz at third base, the Orioles are looking for backups on the 26-man roster who can step in and fill an occasional starting role, but more importantly, they are looking for one or two players who can fill in at multiple positions as roster turnover is likely to be high in Baltimore, once again.
Currently on the 40-man roster are Velazquez, Richie Martin, and Ramon Urias. It’s beginning to look like Martin will indeed spend the year in the minor leagues, working on developing his bat and continuing to handle shortstop duties. He hasn’t been moved around the infield in spring training games, leading one to believe it’s because he isn’t in the mix for a utility job at the moment. The Orioles may still be looking more long-term when it comes to Martin.
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Non-roster guys in the mix include Dilson Herrera, who has four hits this spring (three of them for extra bases), Pat Valaika (two home runs in four games), Richard Urena, Stevie Wilkerson, Jose Rondon, and Malquin Canelo.
Velazquez has certainly been fun to watch in early spring games, going 2-6 with a walk and three stolen bases. All three stolen bags came in Friday’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. On most other teams, Velazquez isn’t in the conversation for an Opening Day roster spot, but we’re talking about the 2020 Baltimore Orioles and we have to find fun wherever we can get it.
Velazquez has the versatility to play around the infield (2B, SS, 3B) and even center field, where he played Friday. He’s also a switch-hitter with two minor league options remaining. In his most recent large sample size, Velazquez hit 12 home runs with a 105 wRC+ in Triple-A while with the Tampa Bay Rays back in 2018.
In parts of eight seasons in the minor leagues, Velazquez has swiped 147 bases, including 50 back in 2014 in full-season A-ball. His speed on the basepaths could make things a bit more interesting at the major league level, especially if he can find a way to get on base (.333 career OBP in the minors).
It’s not the most glamorous of camp competitions, but it is something worth paying attention to as the Orioles continue their Grapefruit League schedule.