The Houston Astros minor league system is overflowing with top prospects. That is incredibly evident based solely on the results of teams at all levels across the organization.
However, that also means that some prospects get lost in the shuffle. There are various reasons for this, but that doesn’t matter. What it does mean though, is that further research must be done to truly understand the depth and skill present in the Astros’ farm system.
The Astros drafted Velasquez in the second round out of High School in 2010, and he had Tommy John surgery a year later. It has been both a slow and successful ascension through the minor league system.
Velasquez made nine starts for Tri-Cities in 2012 going 4-1 with a 3.35 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 51 strikeouts in 45.2 innings. The right-hander spent most of last season pitching in Quad Cities making 16 starts and appearing in 25 games. Once again Velsaquez continued his success with a 3.19 ERA and 1.12 WHIP.
Towards the end of last season Velasquez was promoted to High-A Lancaster when he struggled for the first time in his professional career. He made three starts and 0-2 with a 6.14 ERA.
To begin the 2014 season, Velasquez was back in Lancaster and is 2-0 so far with a 0.69 ERA in three games (two starts) with 16 strikeouts in 13 innings to go along with a minuscule 0.46 WHIP.
The big thing here, is that Velasquez has shown growth and progression so far in his young career. He is working on making adjustments and incorporating feedback from the Astros as he looks to improve and make his major league debut by the end of next season. If he keeps on pitching like he has so far in his career and also this season, Velasquez should be making his way to AA Corpus Christi by July at the latest.
Although he cruised through Low Class-A Quad Cities with an impressive Midwest League-leading 10.06 strikeouts per nine innings last year, it didn’t take him long to realize he needed a deeper repertoire in the hitters’ paradise otherwise known as the California League.
Velasquez, 21, overpowered Midwest League batters with a fastball that sits consistently at 94 mph and hits 97 occasionally. When he wasn’t blowing hitters away with heat, he dominated with a superb changeup that Baseball America ranks as the best in the Astros’ farm system. He has transformed himself a bit this season after the Astros urged him to work on his curveball.
“This offseason I pretty much worked on my curveball,” he said. “I just worked on trusting it. Last year in Quad Cities I was a fastball-change guy, but now I’m starting to be fastball-curveball, but I’m still keeping my changeup.”
It is not a secret, but the Lancaster team is stacked. Not only do they have Velasquez in the rotation, but their starting pitchers also include Mark Appel, Lance McCullers, and Josh Hader. It honestly does not get any better than that.