There’s always one. Always.
Every year at short-season ball, there’s a prospect who catches my eye. There are always several that I like, but just one who I am absolutely fascinated by. Even though his game might not be fully developed, there’s just something that hold my attention and won’t let it go. Trevor Clifton, Zack Short, Eloy Jimenez, and Jose Albertos are previous apples of my eye.
This year is no different, but it’s not any of the usual suspects. It’s not Nico Hoerner, nor is it Nelson Velazquez. Not Brailyn Marquez, Fernando Kelli, or Jonathan Sierra, though I like them all very, very much. This year, the “it” prospect for me is Luis Vazquez.
6-1, 165 lbs.
Bats/Throws – R/R
Alberto Melendez Torres School, Puerto Rico
14th Round Pick, 2017
ETA – 2022-ish
almost earthy. It’s not forced at all. And he looks like he could gain a few pounds.
The first look I got of Vazquez was in a Baseball Census video of pitcher Mitch Stophel. At 1:32, Vazquez comes out of nowhere to make a couple of nice plays. I was amazed at his range and his quick release. What sets Vazquez apart is the way he moves. He’s not awkward or mechanical like you sometimes see with young players who are still growing, but is very fluid and natural.
And he does appear to be growing. Despite what we’ve got listed above, it doesn’t look like either the height or weight stats are accurate any longer. That tends to happen with teenagers.
As a 17-year-old in the Arizona Rookie League, Vazquez battled through predictable struggles. He started out hot, hitting .346 in July before cooling off. He only hit .135 in August, though his strikeout rate remained close to 20 percent. That’s not too bad for a kid playing against pitchers with much better stuff than he was accustomed to seeing in Puerto Rico.
The young shortstop turned heads in Mesa this spring when he played in an actual game with the big league club. He went 0-for-2 at the plate but looked like he belonged out there.
Things have not gone exactly as planned at short-season Eugene, where Vazquez was going to play short and solidify the infield. For the first two weeks, he did just that. He showed great range, a good arm, made good decisions, and was looked to as a defensive leader by the rest of the team. His bat, however, did not do so well. Batting at the bottom of the order for 13 games, he hit only .154 and struck out 10 times in 39 at-bats.
Then along came Nico Hoerner, the Cubs’ No. 1 draft pick (No. 24 overall) this year, who slid right into the starting shortstop position. But instead of it being the downfall of Vazquez, it was the beginning. He began playing second and showed he could do so at an elite level without a hitch. Third base? No problem! I am amazed at how easily he slid into those spots and displayed his skills immediately. The ability to thrive in that situation really speaks to his makeup and desire.
What has changed the most for Vazquez, though, is his bat. He’s hitting .364 with two home runs and five RBI in his last 10 games. What’s more, he’s struck out only three times in his last 22 at-bats. I am excited to see if he can maintain that high level of production and keep his strikeout rate low. Sometimes, he might push an at-bat too hard, so he just needs to learn when to be aggressive and when to dial it back.
Hoerner was only in Eugene for a few games, after which Vazquez was penciled right back in at shortstop and cranked two homers over five games.
Vazquez is going to stay at Eugene all summer, which should give him time to finish growing. He’s still pretty raw at the plate but the more pitches he sees, the better he is going to be.