The KC Royals need a break from Nelson Velázquez

William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports
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Sometimes, you need a break from someone. It can be family, friends, or that one coworker who won't stop telling you about his latest CrossFit challenge. You still want those people in your life, but some time away wouldn't hurt. That is exactly how KC Royals fans must be feeling about outfielder Nelson Velázquez so far in 2024.

The 25-year-old slugger was riding high in 2024 after a dominant end to 2023. He made his Royals debut on Aug. 10, then promptly hit a home run the following day in his first plate appearance for Kansas City. That was just the beginning. Velázquez went on to hit 13 more home runs by season's end, the second-most in that span among AL batters. When Velázquez joined MVP Aaron Judge's company, that set the hype train on fire.

In his first 40 games, Velázquez was on a 56 home run and 137 RBI pace. Now, Velázquez isn't coming close to that in 2024. He is currently on a 10 home run and 40 RBI pace, which isn't bad but will be a painful experience if Velázquez keeps struggling at the plate.

The KC Royals can help short- and long-term plans with Nelson Velázquez.

Velázquez's last 15 games have seen him strike out 15 times with only three hits, good for a .071/.152/.119 slash line. He has the second-worst wRC+ on the Royals in that span, posting a -22 mark. Remember, 100 is an average batter on that scale. By that mark, maligned offseason acquisition Hunter Renfroe is 25% better than Velázquez in that stretch, or Freddy Fermin is 158% more valuable at the plate. This stretch hasn't been brutal for Velázquez, but unquestionably bad in every way, shape, and form. His four-strikeout performance on May 9 was the straw that broke the camel's back. Velázquez and Royals fans need a break.

Now, consider this context. The Royals acquired Velázquez from the Chicago Cubs last summer in exchange for Jose Cuas. When he joined this organization, the slugger had all the expectations of a lottery ticket. Cuas was far from a top reliever then, and Velázquez was off the Cubs' 26-man roster for a reason. But his late-season surge had 2024 expectations for him flying high.

Now the only place Velázquez should be flying is Eppley Airfield in Omaha, Nebraska.

A demotion is not a bad thing, but rather a result of several bad things called Velázquez's plate appearances. He needs a reset in the worst way. Velázquez is excessively swinging and missing, ranking in the 1st percentile for whiff rate (38.3%). He is performing just fine against fastballs, but the opponent is crushing him with breaking and offspeed pitches. He struggled against them in 2023, but his production against fastballs covered up those issues for the most part.

MLB-level pitching is overwhelming Velázquez right now. I am not saying that will always be the case, but manager Matt Quatraro throwing him in the lineup isn't going to solve that issue. A stint in Triple-A Omaha could be the remedy Velázquez needs. It would give him some lower-pressure plate appearances where he could regain some confidence and work on his plate discipline.

But, no matter what, Kansas City fans deserve a break from the painful experience that is Velázquez at the plate.

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