Home: Montalban, Venezuela
Selected 2014 stats
Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)
Message board community (16): With both the community and Brian slotting Valera in the mid-teens, Valera fell in rather accurately here at #15 overall. Valera began receiving votes at #12, first from UncleDenny, before an avalanche of posts dedicated to either support for Valera or in opposition to ranking him that early in the process.
MagnoliaCardFan was one such detractor, believing Valera does not play defense well enough to carry him. Scadder21 thought that Valera has not shown the gap power that I saw in spring training a few years ago. I noted that Valera was young for his league and has the ability to play every position on the field, but catcher. UncleDenny refuted the poor defense line of thinking, mentioning that Valera was good enough at second base to be voted the very best defensively at the position in the Florida State League in 2014. - Jeremy Byrd
Derek Shore: Valera shot 16 spots up from his 31st ranking last winter to a top 15 rank in the TCN countdown this winter after playing in his second full-season in the Cardinals organization.
The multi-positional player played the first part of the season at Palm Beach where he got off to a great start, hitting .333 with 37 RBI in 73 games played, Valera shortly was promoted to be the regular second baseman for Springfield after Jacob Wilson went down due to a season-ending knee injury. Valera concluded the regular season by hitting an okay .286 in 59 Double-A games.
Valera had a tough go of it initially when he was first promoted as many Texas League hitters go through a cycle of immediate success to scuffling, Pitchers soon make adjustments because the frequency at which clubs play other in the eight-team league. One could expect Valera would eventually find consistency because all he has done at the lower levels was hit .300+. In fact, he closed off a successful 2014 regular season with a strong August, hitting .293. Valera also played in the Arizona Fall League, going 13-for-39 in a dozen games as a taxi-squad player.
Despite his 2014 success, Valera was left off the 40-man roster, exposing him to the Rule 5 draft. Fortunately, he was not selected, which was a bit of surprise due to his hitting and positional versatility. His ability to play all over the diamond will eventually get him to the majors, but his throwing arm limits him defensively.
Valera is a switch-hitter who can take great at-bats from both sides but is more comfortable from the left with quicker bat speed. He has a plus bat with an improved approach that leads to him getting on base quite often, but his .300 is fairly empty because of the non-existent power in his game. I don’t see that changing though he could develop some through bulking up. What gives him value is his ability to be able to beat you in a variety of ways.
Expect Valera to be the top-of-the-order catalyst for Springfield with perhaps some time at Memphis following, whether it be mid-season or late-season.
Brian Walton (16): Few players have shown similar consistency to Valera, who was a league all-star in each of the last three seasons – in the New York-Penn League in 2012, the Midwest League in 2013 and the Florida State League in 2014.
Though Valera is labeled by some as a singles-only hitter, he is a much more versatile and valuable performer. In addition to batting .311 this season, seventh-best in the Cardinals organization, the switch-hitter also finished in the top 10 in the system in RBI (eighth with 57), triples (tied for fifth with six), runs scored (sixth with 66) and stolen bases (eighth with 17). None of those totals are record-breaking, but they indicate Valera is not a one-dimensional player.
Mike Shildt knows Valera better than most, having coached him in spring training and instructional league, as well as managing him in parts of the 2011 and 2014 seasons.
“He came to the club in Johnson City in 2011 as just a kid,” the manager recalled this fall. “He was scrawny, but barreled up balls and hit .380 or whatever he hit (.397 in 19 games) the last month of that season in Johnson City. He played his tail off on the playoffs and championship series. I put him out in left field and he did not bat an eye. He is just a baseball player.”
This winter, Valera is sixth in the Venezuelan Winter League in hitting with a cool .346 average with 10 RBI in 19 games. What I find most encouraging though, is that between the Arizona Fall League and the LVBP, Valera has increased his walk rate to 10 percent. That is up over a third from his career mark of 7.4 percent. If it continues, it indicates a growing maturity at the plate that will only benefit him ahead.
Though the specific words were not used by others, it seems to me like Valera is cut from the Swiss Army knife fabric of baseball players.
“The switch-hitter takes great at-bats from both sides of the plate,” Shildt continued. “You can hit him anywhere in the lineup. I didn’t hit him fourth, but I could. Hit him first – great. Hit him second – great. Hit him third, fifth, sixth – the guy just puts together good at-bats.”
Defensively, Valera has appeared in every infield position as well as left field, but his arm is not considered strong enough for every-day duty at short. He is adding another position to his portfolio this winter, playing centerfield at home in Venezuela after not having spent any time there since a five-game introduction in the 2010 Venezuelan Summer League.
“He is good defensively and is going to get stronger,” Shildt said. “It is good to know that Breyvic can play a multitude of positions. That is value.”
The organization seems to have a realistic understanding of where Valera needs to improve in the field.
“We’ve encouraged him to continue to work on his arm strength so he can play the left side of the field and feel good about that at the highest level,” the manager explained. (To that end, I saw Valera regularly take infield at shortstop during the AFL.)
His switch-hitting increases his value as a utilityman, with a profile that can give a manager options late in a game and put pressure on an opponent, including an ability to drop down a bunt to move a player up or leg out an infield hit.
“He is still got some things to learn and polish up, so I don’t want to be too aggressive with it – create too many expectations - but he’s got a skill set to do things to beat you,” Shildt stated.
“He is very well a guy who could move forward,” the manager concluded.
The next time that will happen, likely during the 2015 season, Shildt will again be waiting for him, this time at Triple-A Memphis. A super-utility man with Valera's talents could later fit somewhere in the Majors, whether St. Louis or elsewhere.
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