The Houston Astros are struggling through an epically bad season, but hope always springs eternal for baseball teams when they have confidence in their minor league prospects. Current Houston GM Jeff Luhnow inherited a player development system filled with question marks, but things have already started to turn around during his first year because of a solid draft, prospects acquired in trades, and young players rebounding from injury. One of those prospects is pitcher Vincent Velasquez, who has begun to regain the same promise he had as one of the most coveted players in the 2010 MLB Draft.
A right-handed starter, Velasquez was picked by the Astros in the second round in 2010 out of Garey High School in California. He was a two-way star, shining with his bat but exciting scouts the most with his arm. Although he had committed to Cal-State Fullerton, the offer from the Astros was too much to pass up, and he decided to immediately start his professional career.
Velasquez signed in time to play in 2010 for Houston’s Rookie League affiliate. He pitched well in limited opportunities, but hurt his arm towards the end of the season. The team was initially optimistic, but it turned out that Velasquez needed Tommy John surgery and was forced to miss all of 2011.
In order to more effectively monitor his return, Velasquez was assigned to short-season ball this season to pitch on a specific innings count. His return to the mound has been an unqualified success, as he went 4-1 with a 3.35 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 45.2 innings, spread out over 9 starts. You can find more information about his statistics at
Having regained his status as one of Houston’s best pitching prospects, the Astros are undoubtedly looking forward to next season, when they can let out even more rope on Velasquez’s arm and see how he performs against better competition and over a more robust workload. As long as his maturation continues, he is a good bet to be part of Houston’s rebuilding plans, and certainly a prospect to keep an eye on in the coming years.
Vincent Velasquez Interview:
How did you first become interested in baseball?: Growing up, my dad got me involved in baseball. He was the one who put the bat in my hands and the ball in my hands. I always grew up watching baseball regardless. My goal was to become a baseball player, and it ended up happening.
Did you have a favorite team when you were growing up?: My favorite team was the Yankees. I always grew up as a Yankees fan. I’m not from New York or anything; I’m just a local Cali boy, and I just grew up liking the Yankees because of their popularity and all the great players they had.
Was there any pitcher you modeled yourself after?: No, I was pretty much a shortstop growing up. But I would say Alex Rodriguez [as a player] just because of the role model that he is on and off the field, and an overall great guy.
What was your draft experience like; how did you know that the Astros were interested in you?: I really wasn’t. It was a last-minute thing. I was invited to their camp and pretty much had a good show there, and that’s how I got involved with them.
What pitches do you throw?: A changeup, curveball, fastball.
How difficult was the process of coming back from your injury/surgery last year?: It was difficult mentally, but overall I overcame it. It was pretty much nothing.
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