Nelson Velazquez called up, Adrian Sampson optional in Iowa

Nelson Velazquez called up, Adrian Sampson optional in Iowa

Chicago Cubs outfield prospect Nelson Velazquez returns to the big league team!

The 23-year-old outfielder had a very brief glimpse of the big leagues earlier this year when injuries ravaged the positional side of the roster, but hasn’t seen much action. You have to hope this time around is different, as the Cubs have an interest in maximizing Velazquez’s development heading into 2023, when he could be part of the outfield rotation.

That said, Velazquez is still adjusting to Triple-A (currently hitting .211/.290/.415/85 wRC+, with a mind-blowing 36.2% strikeout rate), so it’s not like you’re expect it to be a permanent call anyway. I figure while he’s up, I’d like to see him start. Let him experience more big league pitching and use that information for continued development at Triple-A when he comes back down.

How long will this stay last? Probably quite short, given that we expect David Bote to return very soon, with Seiya Suzuki hopefully soon after. Any return of position could oust Velazquez, especially as the Cubs seem to stay STRONGLY DEDICATED to pitching Jason Heyward almost every day. (SURPRISE: The Cubs’ roster just came out and Velazquez isn’t starting. Heyward is. Beautiful.)

Velazquez takes the place of Adrian Sampson, as previously reported. The Cubs had to release a pitcher today to comply with the new 13-pitcher cap rule.

*The original post with Sampson’s move follows*

As you will recall, today is the deadline for teams to get down to just 13 pitchers on the active roster. This rule, which was first adopted before the 2020 season (but never implemented), finally comes into effect today.

The Cubs were down to 14 pitchers this morning, so someone had to come out. And as we’ve assumed, he’s pretty much always the guy who’s most recently done the “basic” pitch work:

The Cubs need to bring in a positional player for that spot, so you might be considering David Bote being activated out of the 60-day IL, or maybe Nelson Velazquez being called up. Stay tuned, although my gut tells me Bote will probably be back. There aren’t many other healthy options for 40 men (and maybe I just don’t want to see Velazquez called up only to sit on the bench behind Jason Heyward). It’s possible the Cubs could add someone new to the full 40 (Jared Young? Narciso Crook?), but that would require a separate roster change thanks to the full 40.

Speaking of which, it’s remarkable to me that the Cubs optional Sampson, rather than DFA him. That means the Cubs, for now, want to keep him on the 40-man roster. As a pure depth guy, you might expect him to be more fungible than that, but is there any chance the Cubs liked his stunning performance yesterday enough to at least think, hmm, maybe we don’t want to lose this guy for nothing if we don’t have to?

In case you missed the Sampson discussion in the Bullets this morning:

Meanwhile, Adrian Sampson was downright dominant in 4.2 innings of relief from Hendricks, getting puffs on everything and suppressing a lineup full of good hitters. I was mystified. But I’m going to hold back and not make any obvious jokes about Sampson’s hair. Seriously, watch these batting introductions and think about how you’d view this pitcher if you *DIDN’T KNOW* it was “Contact-Manager Adrian Sampson”:

It was really weird watching him, because I feel like I remember what Sampson looked like last year and he wasn’t that guy. Besides, it’s not like nothing in his numbers at Iowa suggests he’s made a huge transformation. Still, there it was yesterday, hitting 95 mph and throwing a nasty slider. He’s a guy who averaged 92 mph last year and had a swinging strike rate of just 9.2%! I’m not sure I can remember the last time I saw a release that so completely challenged what I thought I knew about a guy. I don’t think you can recalibrate your expectations for Sampson, 30, based on this single appearance. I’m just saying he look at like someone else wearing a Sampson jersey, and the visuals were stunning.

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