After a player goes 0 for 5 and makes a game-flubbing error, it's probably best to wait a day to evaluate that player. I was planning to evaluate the spidery fellow known as Eugenio Velez, and then Sunday happened. Actually, the performances haven't just been limited to one game. Whiff, dink, flub. Flub, dink, whiff. It hasn't been pretty.
The Kevin Frandsen injury was a swift poke in the eye of the Giants' modest rebuilding efforts. There was, however, a small silver lining: at least the Giants would have the ability to evaluate Velez. One month in, and it's clear that Velez is fast. He also has game-changing speed. He runs the bases at a rapid rate, and he can make great time from home to first. The whole "playing baseball" thing? The early returns aren't good.
Important aside: Anyone can look awful for a month. If you watched Jeff Kent hit in September of 1997, he looked like a player who would be destined to fight and claw just to make a 25-man roster by 2000, if not sooner. Instead, Kent won an MVP in 2000. Velez won't win an MVP, but he might yet be a productive player. It's never fair to judge a player based on one month.
But I'm not optimistic. Velez can put a jolt into about every twentieth swing, and I'm sure that hard contact showed up a lot more in Augusta and Norwich. That, combined with his spectacular speed, is why the Giants were excited about a mid-20s minor league Rule 5 pick in the first place. It's why his strong spring excited a lot of us. Watching Velez hit against major league pitching this past April, however, we've had to wade through a lot of unpleasantness to get to any sort of excitement. He's like the "Showgirls" of major league hitters.
The swing: awkward. Unless he guesses right, Velez's swing can take some weird paths to the ball.
The plate discipline: needs improvement. This isn't just about walks or working the count, either. Velez will chase low pitches when he needs a fly ball, and he'll chase high pitches when it'd be a good idea to put the ball on the ground. He'll flail at pitches early in the count against pitchers having control issues, and he'll allow control pitchers to put him in an early hole. I don’t have stats to back all that up, mind you, so don’t take it as gospel. In the court of anecdotal amateur opinion, though, Velez is guilty of third-degree flailing.
The defense: You'll laugh; you'll cry; you'll wonder if the guy has hooves instead of opposable thumbs.
The conclusion: This isn't the time for conclusions -- just hand-wringing concern. The only prescription is more Ray Durham and, ye gods, that's a fever that can kill you.
I wish that Frandsen were healthy and that Velez was plying his trade in Fresno this season. I still have that same begrudging optimism with Frandsen that I did with Lance Niekro and Todd Linden. I have to be right one of these days. But I'm not sure if AAA would really help a 26-year-old hitter like Velez make great strides forward, even though isn't as if he'd be repeating the level. As it is, I'm perfectly fine with continuing to play Velez regardless of the results, and I hope turns out to be the stupidest post I write all season. There are about fifty reasons why that isn't likely, and a couple of them actually have to do with Velez.