Card-by-Yankees Card: The 1977 Topps Set, Card #299, Otto Velez (Article 58)
by Paul Semendinger
(Continuing a series…)
He was a solid Blue Jay, but as a Yankee, his career just didn’t fly.
Otto Velez came up through the Yankees system. He was originally signed by the Yankees and started in their system in 1970. As soon as he arrived, he started mashing too.
In 1970, for two teams (Johnson City and Ft. Lauderdale), he batted .322.
In 1971 for Kinston (still Single-A), he started to show power batting .310 with 16 homers.
In 1972, he struggled a bit in Double-A (West Haven) hitting just .249 with 13 homers, but by 1973, at Syracuse, he was “Otto the Swatto” belting 29 homers and driving in 98 runs. That performance earned him a trip to the bigs.
Each year in the Major Leagues, as he began his career, Velez raised his batting average:
1973 (23 games) .195
1974 (27 games) .209
1975 (6 games) .250
1976 (49 games) .266
But the homers never came. The most he ever hit in a season as a Yankee was two.
After that 1976 season, Velez was not protected and he was chosen as the 53rd player selected and became a member of the Toronto Blue Jays organization.
Of note, there were numerous Yankees and future Yankees taken in that draft:
Future Yankee Ruppert Jones was the first player selected (by the Seattle Mariners)
Grant Jackson was the 11th player taken (from the Yankees by Seattle)
Future Yankee Dave Collins went to Seattle (14th pick)
Former Yankee Dave Pagan was taken 29th (Seattle)
Jim Mason (a Yankee at the time) was the 30th pick (Toronto)
and then came Otto Velez. He was the 53rd (out of 60) players chosen in the draft.
Velez did well in Toronto. Over six seasons north of the border, he hit a total of 72 homers and batted .257. His best home run output came in 1980 when he hit 20 round-trippers.
After the 1982 season, where he hit .192, Otto Velez was released by the Blue Jays. He was picked up by the Cleveland Indians but played only 10 games for them.