Were there better players for the Yankees in 2021 than Andrew Velazquez in 2021? Very much so. However, was there a better story than him? Arguably, no.
The Bronx-born Velazquez had spent years in four different organizations since being drafted out of Fordham Prep in 2012. He had brief MLB stints with the Rays, Cleveland, and the Orioles from 2018-20 before coming “home” and signing a minor league free agent deal with the Yankees last offseason.
Despite joining the team of his childhood fandom, he wasn’t exactly expected to play a role for the team. Every team makes minor league depth signings every year, and plenty of them don’t see a game in the majors. Velazquez ended up did seeing playing time in the majors, and ended up gaining a good deal of love and admiration in the process, even if he didn’t exactly light up the stat sheet.
2021 Statistics: 28 games, 68 PA, .224/.235/.358, 61 OPS+, 57 wRC+, -4 OAA, 0.0 fWAR
2022 Contract Status: In the Angels’ organization
After starting the year in Triple-A and putting up decent stats there, the Yankees called up Velazquez in early August. They were in need of an infielder after Gleyber Torres went on the injured list with a sprained thumb, and the local kid ended up being the choice.
His performance was mostly what you’d expect from a minor league contract guy who gets a call up in a pinch. Velazquez wasn’t great at the plate, but provided some solid defense. However, he contributed some fun moments, especially considering his story.
On August 18th, the Yankees finished off a crucial three-game sweep of the Red Sox, surpassing them in the standings. Velazquez had arguably the biggest performance of the day, going 2-for-4 with two RBI in a 5-2 win. He also made this highlight reel defensive play to seal the win after the Red Sox had brought the tying run to the plate:
Velazquez ➡️ Rizzo to secure the W. pic.twitter.com/zLbksXagpO— New York Yankees (@Yankees) August 19, 2021
A big moment against the Red Sox, being a kid from the Bronx who was literally staying in his childhood bedroom, all of that made him a very easy player to love.
As the Yankees got healthy, he eventually returned to the minors. However, a late season injury to DJ LeMahieu necessitated a return. Velazquez even started the Wild Card Game with the Yankees hoping his defense would help them to a win. It didn’t really end up amounting to anything, as he was pinch hit for after just one at-bat with the Yankees needing offense.
For a mid-season depth call up, he gave you about what you’d hope for. He had a couple big moments, and spent most of the time hitting at the bottom of the lineup, so it’s not as if he was in a position to end a bunch of big rallies. He wasn’t a great hitter, and the peripherals suggest he was probably in line with his actual performance. He was a acceptable defender who maybe would be useful as a bench player and spot starter, but not much more than that.
At least for now, we won’t see him in any further role in a Yankees uniform. Velazquez was claimed off waivers by the Angels back in early November. His story was literally stuff kids dream about when growing up, but at least for now, everyone is awake.