Throughout the season, Orioles Nation will highlight prospects as we see them play or are given reports by Scouts and people within the baseball industry. Our staff will have eyes on the Orioles’ prospects at all times, and you can find the latest updates for them in the Prospect Watch.
Hector Veloz – 3B
It feels like Hector Veloz has been around for a decade. In reality, it has really only been two years since he was playing in short-season leagues outside of the international facilities. Somehow, Hector Veloz is only 19 years old. I know, it is a ridiculous truth. In 2013, he was tasked with his first season as the starting third basemen for the Ironbirds.
It was a rough time. I was at Aberdeen over a dozen times, and I probably witnessed 40-50 of his 70 strikeouts. But Holy Hell, I did see him crack a ball 400+ feet, and it was noted to me that he hit the scoreboard in left-center. That thing must be 420 feet out there. I am not entirely sure on the distance, but for a 19 year old to be popping that in a game in short-season is something else. I think everyone knows the story about Veloz by now. If not, here is a quick recap:
Veloz was one of the highest international signings ever at the time the Orioles plucked him off the market in 2010. He signed for $300,000, so the Orioles obviously liked his talents. Another thing to note is how inactive the Orioles usually were at that time in the international market. It shows how much they really liked Veloz.
I know why they liked him too. The power is plus-plus, and I ranked him #2 on my tools list in terms of power. The only reason I have him second is the simple fact that he may never actually reach that potential. Regardless, it is tough to deny such a loud tool. I was listening to the Baseball Prospectus Fringe Average Podcast and Jason Parks was professing his love for loud tools and high ceilings. I tend to think most talent evaluators are the same way, and there is no denying that Hector Veloz has supreme raw power. However, every story has a flip-side to it. Veloz has well-below average plate discipline. If you do not know what that rates to, it is 30 on the 20-80 scouting scale. So even though he has 70 power potential, it is entirely feasible that it will never be shed to light due to discipline concerns. He has all the other tools necessary at the plate, with good bat speed and solid mechanics. But plate discipline is tough to teach outside of simple repetition. He is still expanding the zone and chasing pitches off the corner of the plate. I am not sure how many at-bats it will take for it to click, but it is possible that the plate discipline never comes around. If so, that is a lot of power that will go by the wayside. As with many prospects, a few loud tools will keep you around for a while. However, at some point there needs to be some form of growth.
I think Veloz displayed mild growth at the end of the Ironbirds’ season. He certainly improved his footwork at the hot corner a little bit. Not much, but enough to reset my “move to first base ASAP” meter. In reality, the bat is what we dream of. The Orioles can find a place for him to play if the bat ever amounts to anything. Teams’ always do. Just remember that he has a long ways to go, but there is definitely talent there. Even if he only had a .608 OPS in short-season A ball.