It was right around this time last year that the Red Sox made the final signing of their 2017 offseason by purchasing the contract of Hector Velazquez from Capeche of the Mexican League. Velazquez was a guy who we knew little about and expected even less from. His stats were intriguing enough—2.47 ERA and 1.00 WHIP over 131.1 IP. Perhaps he could be a worthwhile depth piece. That was about it. If everything went well for the team he wouldn’t need to see any time, but he was an added insurance policy for the club to rely on if they had to deal with a myriad of injuries.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Teams always end up using more starters than they anticipate — or maybe I should say we anticipate — and the 2017 Red Sox were no exception. Velazquez adapted quickly in Triple-A, posting even better numbers in Pawtucket than he had in the Mexican League, sporting a 2.21 ERA and 1.00 WHIP over 102 IP. This effective performance was even more impressive because it came off of effectively zero rest. What do I mean by zero rest? After Velazquez was signed by the team in on February 18th, he got right back to throwing. Sounds normal, right? Wrong. He had continued pitching in Mexican Pacific Winter League and the Caribbean series all offseason, and had logged an astonishing 246.1 IP and 46 starts before even making it to spring training. The fact that he held his own was incredible.
Velazquez logged another 24.2 IP of work at the big league level with a four-inning shutout of the eventual World Series Champs on October 1st. It was a great season, albeit a tiring one for the new Red Sox pitcher.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Nothing really went wrong for Velazquez last year, unless you count the fact that he logged 373 IP between April of 2016 and October of 2017. That is a lot of bullets. It proves Velazquez is durable, but also this isn’t an ideal way to do things.
WHAT TO EXPECT
After Brian Johnson — who is out of options — it is likely that Velazquez will be the first starter summoned from Triple-A should an injury occur. It is not a given at this point that Steven Wright or Eduardo Rodriguez will be available to start the season, so Velazquez could see time immediately should he look good during spring training.
Let’s not get carried away, however, as Velazquez is a 29-year-old journeyman, not a prospect or a threat to develop into anything really intriguing. He throws a fastball/slider/changeup mix that is reliable, just not exciting. His fastball has below-average velocity, but it does generate ground balls. You can’t mistake his offspeed or breaking offerings for wipeout pitches, but they are acceptable pitches for what they are. You can expect that Velazquez will come in, be durable, and keep the ball low in the zone. Essentially, he will give the team a chance to win when he’s in the game. This is all you can ask for the 7th or 8th option in the rotation, and Dombrowski paid very little to get him.
Photo by Kim Klement — USA TODAY Sports