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Happy Birthday Otto Velez

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MLB: Detroit Tigers at Toronto Blue Jays
Otto Velez is on the fair right, with Cito, Alomar, Bell and Gruber.
Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Former Otto Velez turns 66 today.

The Jays picked Otto up in the major league expansion draft in 1976, from the Yankees. That first year the Jays were awful, finishing with a 54-107 record and didn't get much better in the years Otto was with the team. But, he was pretty good, in 1977 he hit .256/.366/.458 with 16 home runs and 62 RBI in 120 games. He had a good eye at the plate leading the team in walks. He mostly played right field that year and he was, well, terrible as a RFer. Rob Neyer says that Velez was the worst defensive right fielder in team history and I can't argue that. He had little range and basically no arm at all. But the team had a 38 year old Ron Fairly and a handful of other guys that really couldn't field, so the DH spot was filled. A typical right handed slugger, he crushed lefties, hitting them at a .318/.420/.527 rate.

In 1978, the Jays weren't any better, but Velez still hit quite well batting .266/.380/.448 with 9 homers and 38 RBI in 91 games. His playing time was split between left and right field, he also DHed some and played one game at first. He continued to crush LHP, hitting .302/.421/.560 against them.

In 1979 he hit .288/.396/.529 in 99 games with 15 home runs and 48 RBI. He again played mostly left and right field, DHed in 9 games and played first 6 times. Fangraphs has 1979 as Otto's best season, giving him a 2.8 WAR. Otto had a reverse split that year.

1980 saw Velez become a full time DH (about time), playing 97 games as a DH and 3 at first base. He set career highs in home runs (20), runs (54) and tied his high for RBI (62). He hit .269/.365/.487 and an OPS+ of 127 his 4th straight year with the Jays with an OPS+ over 120. On May 4th he hit four home runs in a doubleheader against Cleveland, hitting one of each type, solo, two run, three run and grand slam.

1981, the strike year, Velez had a poor season batting .213/.363/.404. When he was a young player he had old player skills and, turning 30, those skills diminished quickly. 1982 he played in just 28 games, hitting just .192. He was replaced at DH by Dave Revering and a cast of thousands. After the 1982 season the Jays released him and he signed with the Cleveland Indians. He played just 10 games for the Indians and that was the end of his major league career at 32.

The early Jays were a pretty poor group, Velez was one of the few reasonable players they had. He was a pretty good DH type, had a really good eye at the plate and good power.

It’s also Brian Wolfe’s birthday. He’s 36. Wolfe pitched out of the Jays’ pen for parts of 3 seasons. In 2007 he had a 2.98 ERA in 38 games. 2008 he had a 2.45 ERA in 20 games. 2009 wasn’t as good, 8.22 ERA in 14 games and that was the end of his career.

And former Jay ‘catcher of the future’ Guillermo Quiroz turns 35 today. He played 29 game for the Jays over 2004 and 2005. Since then he has bounced around playing for the Mariners, Rangers, Orioles (where he played in 56 games in 2009, his career high), back to the Mariners, Red Sox and Giants. In 9 seasons, he’s played 148 games, hitting .199/.256/.277 (pretty close to Josh Thole’s numbers with the Jays, .200/.275/.248).

Happy birthday to all three.