When will the Cubs start Nelson Velazquez more regularly?

(Photo by Matt Dirksen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Matt Dirksen/Getty Images) /

On May 30, the Cubs promoted former fifth-round draft pick Nelson Velazquez. For the first half of the season, keeping Velazquez on the bench was probably the right thing to do, as in 26 games, he is only hitting .227, with five walks compared to 24 strikeouts.

Now, those numbers are obviously not pretty, but with the trade deadline coming up, there is question as what the Cubs will do with Ian Happ. If the Cubs wind up trading Happ in the next two weeks, who will get the majority of the playing time in left field?

At one point, we might have easily answered this question with top prospect Brennen Davis. But Davis is still working his way back from an early season back surgery – and is yet to begin baseball activities. Even when he does get back on the field at Iowa, rushing him to Chicago seems like a short-sighted move given how much time he’s missed and how he struggled at Triple-A prior to the surgery.

That leaves us with two primary options in Jason Heyward and Velazquez. Both players’ 2022 offensive stats are eerily similar, the former Gold Glover’s defensive numbers are much better. It feels like the Cubs clearly have moved on from the former first-rounder, as he has struggled with injures and only played 48 games this season. In those 48 games, Heyward is batting .204, with 28 hits, 10 RBI and 32 strikeouts. For a team all about the future, giving reps to Heyward would be hard to justify.

Cubs need to give Nelson Velazquez as many reps as possible right now

Meanwhile, Velazquez is just 23 years old and has much better chances of impacting the team long-term than Heyward. The Cubs are not competing for a postseason spot, and will likely not be able to trade the veteran’s heavy contract. Regardless, there’s just one route to go: and it’s Velazquez.

The rookie outfielder continued to impress over the weekend, making it three straight contests with a home run, raising his OPS to .842 on the season.

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Velazquez unfortunately reminds me a lot of former Cub outfielder from 2013-2015, Junior Lake, due to the lack of hustle in the outfield, high strikeout rate and similar batting averages, there is no reason for the Cubs to not put in the younger player until September comes. Velazquez is on the 26-man roster for a reason – let him play or send him back down