Eugenio Velez No Longer the Centerpiece of the San Francisco Giants Future
There were a lot of high hopes for infielder Eugenio Velez when he first broke on the stage in 2007.
In a cup-of-coffee 14 game stint at the end of the 2007 season, Velez hit two triples, scored five runs, and stole four bases.
And he did this in only 13 plate appearances.
The following spring training, Velez tore it up and built on that small stint he had the previous season. The buzz about this kid was something special.
In the 2008 Sports Illustrated baseball preview, a club official likened Velez to Willie McGee.
Even Jon Miller was jumping on the bandwagon. According to Sports Illustrated, Giants and ESPN broadcaster Jon Miller sang the praises of Velez's potential to Giants investors and executives at a special preseason dinner event.
"I have two words for you," Miller said to his audience. "Eugenio Velez."
Velez was supposed to anchor a new era of baseball in San Francisco. While Giants teams during the Bonds era were characterized by aging veterans and home runs, the team now was going to be distinguished by youth and speed.
And Velez was to be the centerpiece for Sabean's new plan. He was supposed to be the guy that would help the Giants take that step in the new direction with his excellent base running skills, his knack to make contact and endless energy in the field.
Unfortunately though, it didn't happen like we all thought.
Despite a nagging need for speed in the lineup, Velez struggled at the plate. Through 55 games he hit an awful .207 and posted a pathetic .244 OBP.
He could steal bases as advertised (he had seven stolen bases at that point and had only been caught twice), but as the problem with a lot of great base stealers, he couldn't get on base to begin with.
At-bats for him became painful affairs, and not just for him, but for the fans as well. Velez took the phrases "impatient at the plate" and "swinging out of his shoes" to new, frustrating heights.
Instead of seeing him sliding into second with a stolen base, it was a more common sight to see Velez walking back to the dugout with his head down after a strikeout.
The most maddening aspect of Velez's play was that the talent was there.
The Giants organization and fans recognized that. In a two month stint in Fresno in 2008, Velez batted .310 with five homers, four triples, a .372 OBP.
And even after he was called up, Velez was able to make his stats respectable again. He brought up his stat line in his second stint of the year, finishing with a .262 average and .299 OBP. It wasn't great stats by any measure, but considering where he was in mid-May, it was a vast improvement for him.
This year, the Giants took another chance on Velez. Even with Uribe, Burriss and Frandsen all competing for the second base position, and Renteria holding the shortstop position firmly, the organization decided Velez was too good to send back down to Fresno.
Even if it mean playing him out of position in a crowded outfield, the Giants felt the need to somehow crack Velez in the lineup after the way he finished the 2008 season.
Unfortunately, much like last year, Velez got off to a bad start.
Only this season was far worse.
In 23 games, Velez only batted .194 with a .216 OBP before being sent back down to Fresno.
Velez once again couldn't handle being on the bigger stage, and with him now 27, the window seems to be closing in on the once promising prospect.
He is no longer the centerpiece of the Giants future, but he is only a small piece and a fringe piece at that.
And unless he is called up again and somehow gets on an offensive tear, he probably won't be part of the Giants future at all any time soon.
Velez just doesn't fit in the equation anymore. They have their speed guy in Burriss. They have their utility infielder in Uribe. They have their sparky outfielder in Torres.
Where does he fit in with this Giants squad?
He doesn't. And it's sad and disappointing considering what we were saying about this guy two seasons ago.
As fans of the black and orange, we wanted him to succeed as a Giant. He was a quirky looking player, with a quirky little swing and a quirky attitude to boot (in a good way of course).
And to be honest, I was one of those fans that was lauding up Velez in 2008, saying that he would be stepping into the spotlight soon, and be that dark horse rookie that would be turning heads all over the nation.
Heck, I even picked him up with the last pick in my fantasy draft in 2008. I figured, "Once this guy gets hot, it'll be the steal of the year."
It just didn't happen though. And with the way things are looking, it doesn't look like it's going to happen either, much to the disappointment of the organization and Giants fans.
So much for that Jon Miller hype a year ago. I hope those investors and executives forgot what he said about Velez at the dinner.
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