Nelson Velazquez Called Up, Adrian Sampson Optioned to Iowa

Chicago Cubs outfield prospect Nelson Velazquez is coming back up to the big league team!

The 23-year-old outfielder got a very brief taste of the big leagues earlier this year when injuries ravaged the positional side of the roster, but didn’t see much action. You’ve gotta hope this time around is different, since the Cubs have an interest in maximizing Velazquez’s development heading into 2023, when he could become part of the outfield rotation.

That said, Velazquez is still adjusting at Triple-A (currently hitting .211/.290/.415/85 wRC+, with an eye-popping 36.2% strikeout rate), so it’s not as if you’d expect this to be a permanent call-up in any case. I just figure while he’s up, I’d like to see him get some starts. Let him experience more big league pitching, and use that information for continued development at Triple-A when he heads back down.

How long will this stay be? Probably pretty short, given that we expect David Bote to be back pretty soon, with Seiya Suzuki hopefully soon after that. Any positional return could squeeze Velazquez out, especially while the Cubs seem to remain STEADFASTLY DEDICATED to starting Jason Heyward nearly every day. (SURPRISE: The Cubs’ lineup just came out, and Velazquez is not starting. Hayward is. Beautiful.)

Velazquez takes the place of Adrian Sampson, as discussed earlier. The Cubs had to move out a pitcher today to comply with the new 13-pitcher-maximum rule.

*Original post with the Sampson move follows*

As you’ll recall, today is the deadline for teams to get down to just 13 pitchers on the active roster. That rule, which was first passed before the 2020 season (but never implemented), finally kicks in today.

The Cubs were at 14 pitchers as of this morning, so someone had to go out. And as we speculated, it’s pretty much always the guy who most recently did the “bulk” pitching work:

The Cubs have to bring up a position player for that spot, so you’re looking at maybe David Bote being activated off the 60-day IL, or possibly Nelson Velazquez being called up. Stay tuned, though my gut says Bote is probably coming back. There aren’t a lot of other healthy 40-man options (and maybe I just don’t want to see Velazquez called back up only to sit on the bench behind Jason Heyward). It’s possible the Cubs could add someone fresh to the 40-man (Jared Young? Narciso Crook?), but that would require a separate roster move thanks to the full 40-man.

Speaking of which, it’s remarkable to me that the Cubs optioned 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 there is any chance the Cubs liked his eye-popping performance enough yesterday to at least think, hmm, maybe we don’t want to lose this guy for nothing if we don’t absolutely 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 whiffs on everything, and striking out a lineup full of good hitters. I was mystified. But I’ll train myself and not make obvious Sampson-hair jokes. Seriously, watch these strikeout pitches, and think about how you’d view this pitcher if you *DIDN’T* know it was “Contact-Manager Adrian Sampson”:

It was really weird to be watching it, because I feel like I remember how Sampson looked last year and it was not this guy. Moreover, it’s not like anything in his numbers from him at Iowa suggest he’d made some huge transformation. Yet there he was yesterday, touching 95 mph and throwing a nasty slider. This is 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 an outing that so completely defied what I thought I knew about a guy. I don’t think you can recalibrate your expectations for Sampson, 30, based on that one appearance. I’m just saying, I looked like someone else wearing a Sampson jersey, and the visuals were eye-popping.

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