Another day means more roster changes for the St. Louis Cardinals.
On Monday, the club added infielder Breyvic Valera to its 40-man roster. This was necessary to keep the 24-year old in the organization and away from minor league free agency.
Signed out of Venezuela at the age of 18 in May, 2010, the switch-hitter had good momentum for a while, with All-Star berths in A-ball in 2013 and 2014 and a plum assignment to the 2014 Arizona Fall League. At that point, Valera reached his four-year peak in The Cardinal Nation top prospect list at number 15 and earned a non-roster invitation to 2015 big-league spring training camp.
From there, his career trajectory skidded downhill fast. During the 2015 season, it got so bad at Springfield (.236 average) that Valera was temporarily demoted to Palm Beach, an unenviable path that his then-infield partner Aledmys Diaz blazed the year before. Unlike Diaz, Valera dropped off prospect lists and was passed over for 2016 MLB spring training and even minor league STEP Camp. It seemed his time had passed.
To his credit, Valera kept pushing and after an ok first two months back at Springfield, he received a shot at Triple-A Memphis in early June when Alex Mejia was injured. Valera went on to perform so well that he was named TCN’s Redbirds Player of the Year despite playing just three months in the Pacific Coast League. (Read more about his Memphis accomplishments here.)
Valera, who appeared in only 73 games for the Redbirds, posted team-highs in batting average (.341) and OBP (.417). With more plate appearances, the infielder would have placed among the top three in the Pacific Coast League in those categories. Valera also had an impressive 31 walks to 22 strikeouts in his 217 at bats, continuing his career trend. On the downside, he has little power or speed on the basepaths.
Though primarily a second baseman, Valera has played all four infield and three outfield positions defensively in his seven-year career. This versatility can only help him in his efforts to reach St. Louis, where he will likely compete with returnee Greg Garcia and others for an infield reserve spot this spring.
A veteran of winter ball play back home, Valera is currently third in the Venezuelan Winter League with a .386 batting average through 24 games. His .438 on-base percentage is sixth and his .566 slugging and 1.004 OPS are seventh in the VWL.
The timing of this move, driven by the uniqueness of Valera’s impending minor league free agency, does not signal that St. Louis is done with roster changes. The club should be adding other minor leaguers to the 40-man roster by the November 18 deadline to protect them from the December Rule 5 Draft.
With the addition of Valera, the Cardinals have 37 players on their 40-man roster.
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