Breyvic Valera (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

The utility man makes a return to the top prospect list after earning a 40-man roster spot

The Cardinal Nation’s top 50 prospect countdown for 2017 continues at #39 with a second baseman-outfielder who was rewarded for big a comeback season at Triple-A. Details for TCN members.

http://www.scout.com/player/143613-breyvic-valera?s=321

2016 rank Pos. DOB Signed Round
BOR 2B/OF 08 01 92 2010 IFA

Selected 2016 stats

Tm AVG BABIP AB R H 2B HR RBI BB SO SB wOBA OBP SLG OPS
Mem 0.341 0.370 217 32 74 14 0 31 31 22 8 0.377 0.417 0.415 0.832
Spr 0.258 0.282 178 16 46 5 0 12 9 18 3 0.267 0.289 0.298 0.587
Tot 0.304   395 48 120 19 0 43 40 40 11   0.363 0.362 0.725

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (35): Breyvic Valera has been a long-time prospect in the Cardinals system, garnering community votes as far back as 2012, when he was voted as the 46th-ranked prospect. This year, Valera began receiving support at #26 from scadder21, before eventually landing at 35.

Scadder21 was having a hard time with Valera not getting mentioned anytime within the vote for the first 25 prospects, believing that he can be a utility man for the Cardinals next year. Wileycard brought up that Valera has hit over .300 in six of his seven minor league seasons. 14NyquisT thinks that Valera is the most underrated player in the organization, having played six different positions in 2016 and being a switch-hitter. Wileycard also noted that Valera has been playing centerfield in the Venezuelan Winter League, making him a nearly perfect bench player. – Jeremy Byrd

 

Derek Shore (38): Valera was left unprotected in the past two Rule 5 drafts until the Cardinals added him to the 40-man roster on Nov. 9, based on his proximity and recent offensive turnaround at Triple-A Memphis.

Valera, 24, has been a member of the organization since signing in Venezuela in 2010. He opened the 2016 season at Double-A Springfield before his first-ever Pacific Coast League trial, hitting for a combined .303/.363/.362 through 125 games following his worst minor league season in 2015.

However, it was his very strong second half at Triple-A (.341/.417/.415) which reopened eyes. He exhibited excellent plate discipline (22-to-31 strikeouts to walks), tremendous bat-to-ball ability, and an ability to play up to seven positions, including his primary spot at second base that once made him a top 20 prospect. As a result, the super-utility man was recognized as TCN's 2016 Memphis Player of the Year.

"The 2016 season in the United States was difficult," Valera told Meridiano.com, a Venezuelan news publication. "I started in Double-A. I thought that I would be in Triple-A from the start. But to think that everything does not start well ended in the best way possible."

While very limited home run power limits the amount of impact in his offensive profile, Valera's batting eye, bat-to-ball skills, and defensive versatility obviously remain the name of his game. He did manage to show decent gap power, collecting 19 doubles and stretching out two triples while swiping 11 bags in 16 chances.

Valera continues to work back home in winter ball.

"I am now working to get stronger through the ball," Valera said in the article. "My coaches have told me that I am a hitter of high-contact. Though, I am indisputable and hit very few homers. I am trying to improve that here in Venezuela. I have many things to work on and am doing that (on the doorstep of the big leagues)."

This past year, pro scouts felt Valera had a realistic role of an organizational utility type with an outside shot of having a big-league career. He was also seen as a switch-hitting big-league utility player as his ceiling. One scout said Valera has no power and needs to get stronger control of the strike zone.

The 5-foot-11, 160-pounder, favors the right of the plate slightly more than the left-side. Granted it is a smaller sample size, but his splits suggest that. He hits at .368 with a .988 OPS as a right-handed hitter against PCL pitching (25-for-68) versus a .329 average and .757 OPS (49-for-149) from the left side.

While he is a career .300 minor league hitter with above-average speed and proficiency for getting on base, I've always been under the impression he has an empty offensive profile due to the lack of power potential.  Valera's type of skill-set - Swiss-Army Knife - is very valuable in a dugout as he can beat a team in a variety of ways whether pinch-running late in games, dropping down a bunt, legging out an infield hit, or keeping players fresh thanks to his versatility.

 

Brian Walton (46): As our relative ratings indicate, compared the other voters, I am less bullish on Valera, despite his phoenix-like return from the ashes in 2016. Unlike Aledmys Diaz, another Cardinals infielder who rebounded from a demotion from Double-A before leaping forward, perhaps I am guilty of feeling that I already know Valera too well from his long career body of work.

Before I proceed, I want to make one correction to the assumption some have made about the reason for Valera’s addition to the 40-man roster. It was not done to keep him out of the Rule 5 Draft. The reason was that would have been eligible to leave the Cardinals as a six-year minor league free agent. He would not have been around long enough for the 2016 Rule 5 Draft to have been an issue. That is why Valera was placed on the 40-man before the four other Cardinals prospects who were also added this fall (and are yet to come in this top 50 countdown).

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 for much of August. He dropped off prospect lists and was passed over for 2016 MLB spring training and even minor league STEP Camp. All indications were that his time had passed. 

Why Valera thought he should have opened at Memphis in 2016 after his awful 2015 is beyond me.

To his credit, Valera kept pushing, but the results were still not there. After two months back at Springfield, his average was an empty .258 with a mediocre .587 OPS. Still, he received a shot at Triple-A Memphis in early June simply because 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.

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. As noted above, he continued his admirable career trend of more walks than strikeouts. On the downside, his Memphis BABIP was an inflated .370 and he continues to show 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. He will likely compete with Greg Garcia for an infield reserve spot this spring, with low odds of unseating the incumbent initially.

A veteran of winter ball play back home, Valera is currently second in the Venezuelan Winter League with a .388 batting average through 38 games. His .443 on-base percentage is third and in the far biggest surprise, his .640 slugging and 1.083 OPS top the entire league. If only winter ball stats were transferable…

Now that he is on the 40-man, Valera would seem to be the next in line if a reserve infield opening occurs in St. Louis. However, with Paul DeJong coming up quickly behind, he had better provide a quick impact when he finally makes it.

TCN Scouting Grade: 3.5, Risk: Low (click here to review scales)

Our 2017 top 50 series continues

To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 50 countdown and nine in-depth, follow-up articles. Most of them are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation. Thank you for being a member!

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