Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Writing Is On the Wall for Eugenio Velez

Two days after getting re-called to the Giants when Mark Derosa headed to the Disabled List, Eugenio Velez is heading back to Fresno after the Giants activated Freddy Sanchez for today's game against the Diamondbacks.

The move is both surprising and predictable. While Velez still has an option left for the Giants (which makes it easier for the Giants to send him up and down between Triple-A and the Majors), so did other guys like Ryan Rohlinger and Matt Downs. Some Giants fans figured with Velez's ability to play multiple positions, and the Giants' injury woes with Edgar Renteria and Derosa, Velez might be given a chance to redeem himself after a slow start to the 2010 season.

(Note: Here is an explanation of how Minor League options work on River Avenue Blues, a NY Yankees blog. Basically options work in years, and if you have an option year, you can be sent up and down as much as possible as long as you have that option year. There isn't a "set" number of options in a given year.)

That doesn't seem to be the case. After Velez got demoted, manager Bruce Bochy said this about Downs, who is currently hitting .269 with a home run and six RBI:

"We'll have Downsie take some ground balls at third," Bochy said. "He'll take some fly balls in the outfield. We'll move him around. The way he's swinging we'll use him as a right-handed pinch-hitter coming off the bench."

Two thoughts come to mind after hearing Bochy's quote:

1.) Bochy really likes to add "ey or ie" to guys' last names. (e.g. Whitey, Downsie, Rowsie...okay, I made the last one up.)

2.) Downs is the third guy Bochy has talked about moving to the outfield.

In the beginning of the year it was Travis Ishikawa. A few days ago it was Aubrey Huff. Now, it's Downs.

It makes you wonder: "Does Bochy even realize he still has Velez on the 40-man roster?"

My answer to that: yes, but he no longer has confidence in playing him anymore.

Guys with futures on Major League teams don't get called up and demoted again in less than two days. Guys with futures on the team don't regularly get demoted to Fresno after the first month of play (which has happened to Velez the past three seasons).

Thus, it's easy to determine Velez's future with the Giants: it is only a matter of time before he's playing for another Major or Minor League team.

It's tough for Velez. He hasn't exactly had it easy while being in San Francisco. In addition to Bochy's disenchantment with playing young players (which has affected Velez in addition to John Bowker), Velez simply has had a hard time finding a position in San Francisco.

Going into Spring Training in 2009, he was expected to be in the running for the second baseman job after Ray Durham was traded away to Milwaukee in 2008. Unfortunately, he never was up to the task offensively (career .306 wOBA) or defensively (minus-16.1 UZR/150 at second base for his career).

Velez provided the Giants some versatility when he began playing more regularly in the outfield in 2009. However, despite his above-average athleticism (he has a career 13.9 UZR/150 in the outfield), his lackluster instincts (he has a minus UZR in center and right) and big time blunders (I don't think I have to remind people about the Philadelphia game) seemed to bury any reputation that he can be a regular fixture in the Giants outfield.

And what has been the nail in the coffin for Velez's future in San Francisco? Two players: Andres Torres and Fred Lewis, who is now a Blue Jay.

Look at what Torres is doing for the Giants this year. Sure, he isn't young (32 years old to be exact), but he can hit (.397 wOBA going into today's game against Arizona), run (five stolen bases) and has tremendous defensive skills (he has a UZR/150 of 49.3 this year in the outfield).

As for Lewis? He has tore it up since moving to Toronto. A lot of fans claimed that Lewis wasn't needed because Velez was just as good an option in left field, if not better.

It's funny because the "Velez is better than Lewis" claim was a moot argument to begin with. Lewis is hitting .298 and has a wOBA of .349 entering today's game. Furthermore, look at what Scott from The Crazy Crabbers said in a post after Lewis was traded to Toronto:

"Let's do a quick comparison of some triple slash lines (AVG/OBP/SLG) to see where he comes down here:

Player A: .281/.339/.449
Player B: .228/.290/.365
Player C: .277/.355/.420
Player D: .265/.306/.401
Player E: .274/.343/.423
Player F: .284/.316/.415
Player G: .245/.292/.403

These are the career numbers of Fred Lewis and the other Giants outfielders. Would it surprise you if I told you that Lewis is player C and has arguably the second best triple slash line for his career.

Here are the identities of each:

Player A: Aaron Rowand
Player B: Andres Torres
Player C: Fred Lewis
Player D: Eugenio Velez
Player E: Mark DeRosa
Player F: Nate Schierholtz
Player G: John Bowker"

Take a long gander at Velez's career slash line: .265, .306 and .401. That's worse than Lewis in every category. And yet, people at the time of Lewis' departure claimed Velez was a better option.

They seem to look foolish now, don't they?

Overall, maybe it was never meant to work out for Velez in San Francisco. After all, he was a Rule 5 draft pick from the Toronto Blue Jays in 2005, and those kinds of players usually aren't expected to have great Major League careers.

Nonetheless, Giants fans got their hopes up about Velez during Spring Training before the 2008 season when Jon Miller pointed him out as a player to watch at a team banquet in Scottsdale. Giants fans got their hopes about Velez when he went on that tear in late July and early August, which parlayed him into being the Giants' leadoff hitter for the remainder of the year. Giants fans got their hopes about Velez because he had cool nicknames like "The Pharaoh" or "Genie" (because he kind of looked like one to be frank).

Well...after this latest demotion for Velez, I think it's safe to say that Giants fans may have gotten their hopes up for nothing.


  1. I don't remember ever saying A.U. was better than Lewis, as I always disliked him. Lewis was too frustrating for me too. Guess I'm glad they're both gone.

  2. I don't think you said it, but I know it was a hot subject on Bleacher Report where guys were saying they would rather have Velez over Lewis. I understand both were frustrating, but at least Lewis had some positives (plate patience, proven in a full season, etc.) while you couldn't say the same thing of Eugenio.

    Velez isn't gone yet, but it will only be a matter of time in my book.