Name: Jeudy Valdez
DOB: May 5, 1989
After hitting .238 in the Dominican Summer League in 2006, Valdez came stateside and showed tremendous promise. The shortstop hit .281 with 14 extra base hits and 30 RBIs across 47 games for the AZL Padres – adding 11 stolen bases in 14 attempts.
His season ended slowly, as he played more than he ever had previously.
Coming into 2008, he was seen as a player who could make a positive impact – and quickly.
Unfortunately, reality has a funny way of setting in. Valdez, beginning the year at 19, played against competition three and four years his elder and suffered the consequences of the deadly breaking ball.
In 59 games, Valdez hit .227 – striking out 64 times in 216 at-bats. A right-handed hitter, he batted just .194 off southpaws and hit .213 after getting out of the gate with a .306 start through his first 10 games.
While he was able to manage a .281 average with the bases empty, Valdez hit a paltry .176 with runners in scoring position.
His 10.1 runs below average was the 15th worst mark in the league among players with 100 at-bats and his .286 on-base percentage ranked 10th from the bottom.
His 29.6 percent strikeout rate was a testament to his pitch selection, or lack thereof. He struck out 64 times on the year while drawing just 18 walks.
"He has to take a little more pride in wanting to learn, or be studious," Eugene hitting coach Eric Peyton said. "He does get lazy. He's young, though. He's 19, it's probably better to ask him questions about how much does he understand the game."
Simply put, Valdez swung at far too many pitches that were outside the zone. He regularly chased breaking balls in the dirt and rarely made the adjustment. The talent, however, was visible at times. During a game versus Vancouver in July, Valdez flailed miserably in his first two at-bats. Up with the bases loaded and the game on the line, Valdez watched breaking balls sail wide. He then drove a fastball into the gap for a triple.
Unfortunately, those instances of success were few and far between. He suffered through a 0-for-23 slump during one point of the season and struck out two or more times in 19 different games.
"He's a young 19 and to be against these college guys be like ninth graders playing against seniors," Eugene manager Greg Riddoch said. "And I've had guys in the past like Erick Davis hit below .200 one year, at 18 years old, and struggle like hell, and next year he was the MVP of the league. I think he hit 15 bombs with 58 stolen on bases and hit .358 or something like that his second year after hitting below .200 the first year!
"I've recommended for him to repeat that league again because then will be turning 20."
Valdez is still maturing into his body and sometimes believes he is a power threat today. While that will be true in the future, he needs a consistent approach to make that happen. Leaking forward on his front foot and off-balance – as he is today – is not sound mechanics. It also allows a good fastball to fly by untouched.
"Talent-wise, yes, he has talent," Peyton said. "Lot of players do; does he really have the instinct for the game? Even talking about base running, I'll tell him, ‘Hey, let's get a good jump,' but I don't even know if he knew that or not. Does he really understand that?"
Valdez can be stiff in his setup and approach and holds the bat with clenched fists. He doesn't appear relaxed at the dish and puts forth maximum effort – resulting in swings that are not level and can't be reproduced with consistency. Instead, the bat head wavers through the zone as he tries to muscle the ball. Oftentimes, that means the ball is not being squared up and is popped up or hit weakly on the ground.
The Dominican native also adds a rap to his swing, at times, making his swing long. It affects his timing, as he has to begin the swing before he is able to recognize what type of pitch is thrown. That leads to him lunging for balls and not allowing the ball to travel deep.
Speed is something Valdez possesses but was unable to use in 2008. He stole three bases in seven attempts, mostly from a lack of reaching base on a consistent basis. He needs to learn the nuances of reading a pitcher and getting a good jump, but it can be a factor in the future.
"Good kid, I like him, good kid," Peyton said. "For me, that's important. You can say, ‘Hey, Valdey, do that,' and he would say ‘yes,' but I don't know, saying ‘yes', does he really understand what's going on? He's going to need a translator to really help him pick up things more."
Defensively, Valdez made the switch from shortstop to second base. At shortstop, he had a tendency to rush his throws and not set his feet properly. Moving to the keystone, he is calmer – knowing he has more time to deliver the ball to first. He turns the double play well from both spots and has an excellent arm.
"Valdey, he learned to play second base this summer, and he has looked better at second base than at short," Riddoch said. "I know he has more confidence at second than at short at the moment. The shorter throw and stuff like that. It was good to let him play a lot of games at second, too."
"Valdez is more of a grooming guy," Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson acknowledged.
Conclusion: Valdez does have electricity in his bat when he is maintaining a level and consistent swing. Too many moving parts due to lack of pitch recognition have hurt him. When he does connect solidly, the ball can travel, as he has considerable pop in his frame.
Valdez must work on adding bulk to his frame and seeing more pitches. Laying off balls outside of the zone is at the forefront of the to do list. He has immense talent but needs to take more teaching into the field. A repeat of Eugene is likely in the cards. This year could be a big one for the young infielder.
Talk about this story on our subscriber-only message boards