Valera's 2012 contributions were consistent. For example, in week two, the switch-hitter went 10-for-30 with a double, including a 4-for-5 night against Jamestown in an 8-1 win. The next week, the 19-year-old went 11-for-31 at the plate, including a double and three RBI with four stolen bases. Overall, Valera hit .316/.359/.418 with 18 doubles, one off the team lead. His 33 RBI was tops on the club.
Defensively, Valera displayed his outstanding versatility and baseball instincts when he was forced into left field for four games at the end of the year due to injuries. He looked almost natural in the position despite playing second base for the entire season. The Venezuela native's seamless adaptation to a new position and the prowess he exhibited in the middle infield showed what a pure baseball player he is.
Scouts said that the middle infielder has 80-grade speed – the highest possible rating for any player. One went on to say that the 19-year-old would be a top-10 player in major league baseball speed-wise right now. Valera also draws rave reviews from scouts for his defense because of excellent range, instincts and footwork and he has the ability to make difficult plays look easy at second base.
Patrick Wisdom, the highest draft pick on the team as a supplemental first-rounder (No. 52), finished the year hitting .282/.373/.465 with six home runs, 16 doubles and 32 RBI. Wisdom is another player, like Valera, who could have played at a higher level and kept up.
The former St. Mary's third baseman has a mature glove, great hands, and is strong on plays coming in on the ball. He also has a great arm. Like Valera, the 21-yaer-old looks very confident and smooth defensively.
At the plate, despite the great numbers Wisdom put up, there are still holes in his swing. Also, as a dead-pull hitter, can he reach across the strike zone for hits? Can he adjust to down-and-away fastballs with which he seemed to struggle this season?
What is for sure is that Wisdom has a professional baseball player's body, work ethic and makeup.
It is difficult to fully judge position players in the New York Penn-League because the pitchers there are not exploiting weaknesses. They are just trying to throw strikes… not make adjustments from batter to batter. But these two players made people notice when they took the field - especially on defense where both Wisdom and Valera looked advanced for the league.
Link to master article with all 2012 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series.
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