“WE WANT VELEZ!”
If Eugenio Velez doesn’t start for the 2008 San Francisco Giants, fans should start chanting the above statement until they get him a starting job.
How can there be no position available for the Spring Training star among a lackluster infield group that includes Ray Durham, Kevin Frandsen, Rich Aurilia and an injured Omar Vizquel. Velez can even play the outfield, according to his scouting report, although his shaky defense is clearly nothing compared to his batting and baserunning skills.
Yesterday, however, Velez was a five-tool player, hitting a home run, stealing two bases and diving for a ball to start a double play in an 11-6 win over the defending division champion Diamondbacks. Today, Velez added another two hits in a 10-2 loss to the A’s.
For those that are just getting word of this 25-year old savior, he is now hitting .340 this March to go along with a major league-leading nine steals.
It’s not like this kid is trying to earn a spot in the Mets’ already stocked infield, this is the Giants were talking about. And after losing the majority of the team’s home runs with the departures of Barry Bonds and Pedro Feliz, the Giants’ only chance at success is with a small-ball offense.
Who better to lead off a small-ball offense than a young, speedy kid who’s playing for his chance to start at the Major League level?
When Velez did get a brief chance as a September call-up last season, he did not disappoint, going 3-for-11 with two triples, five runs scored, two RBIs and four steals. He batted only .273, but had an on-base percentage of .385 and a slugging percentage of .636 for a Bondsian OPS of 1.021. He was never caught stealing during his stint with the parent club and has yet to be gunned down this spring.
Do you really need any more proof that this guy deserves a starting job? Apparently, Giants management does, as they are tip-toeing around the idea of starting Velez. It seems that the Giants are still looking at Joe Crede, and now even Brandon Inge, to fill the void left at third base when Feliz left for Philadelphia.
But do Giants fans really want to see another corner infielder that in rare cases can drive the ball out of the yard, but more often than not strikes out on a slider out of the zone or grounds into a rally-killing double play? That’s what I remember of Feliz and that’s what I would expect out of Crede or Inge.
Wouldn’t you rather root for a lightning-quick, homegrown talent who could force the Giants to take a new offensive philosophy that could actually lead to some wins?
If so, then start chanting for Velez come Opening Day. If not, enjoy a miserable season watching the most boring offense in baseball put up three runs a game.
If Velez does get his chance, by the end of year Giants fans will have a new chant: