Scouting Padres Prospect Jeudy Valdez

There were whispers amongst scouts within the San Diego Padres front office that stated Jeudy Valdez could end up being just as good, if not better, than highly touted prospect Drew Cumberland.

Vital Statistics;
Name: Jeudy Valdez
Position: SS/2B
DOB: May 5, 1989
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 160
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Thus far, those have been hollow words.

A fractured wrist cut his 2009 season short, as the infielder was challenged with placement in the Midwest League.

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 RBI across 47 games for the AZL Padres – adding 11 stolen bases in 14 attempts.

His season ended myriad in a slump, 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 during his time in the Northwest League.

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.

The coaching staff in Eugene urged the front office to bring him back for a repeat performance. Instead, the Padres decision makers decided to challenge him again.

Valdez played in 49 games for the Fort Wayne TinCaps, hitting .212 with a 17-to-51 walk-to-strikeout ratio while playing all of his games at second base.

The Dominican Republic native hit .255 with runners in scoring position but netted just one extra base hit in 47 at-bats with men positioned on second or third. He ended the year with 14 extra base hits and sputtered as the season progressed.

When he did get on base, Valdez showed his excellent speed by swiping 11 bases in 14 attempts. His ability to read pitchers and first-step quickness is advanced, even if his bat is not. His 7.4 SPD score (a Bill James principle) was one of the best in the league.

He struck out in 26.4 percent of his at-bats and was a woeful negative 7.4 in average runs above average and posted a .285 wOBA (weighted On-Base Average).

Simply stated, he was overmatched much of the year.

He came back late in the year and hit .318 across 12 games for the AZL Padres with six RBI and six walks for a .400 on-base percentage.

Valdez' transition to second base has put him in a better position to succesd. He has a below average arm but has good footwork around the bag and can turn the double play with a solid pivot. He will get too fast and rush his fielding, trying to compensate for a lack of a strong arm. Time will be a huge asset for his defense, as he possesses solid range and should make all the plays. That will enable to cut down on the 10 errors he made in 2009.

Valdez remains susceptible to the breaking pitch away. He is stiff in his upper body and grips the bat with an iron claw. A more relaxed feel would make for an easier time hitting. Instead, he is wound tight and rigid in his movements through the zone. Couple that with his lack of pitch recognition and Valdez is a strikeout or soft contact candidate that can be fooled. He lacks overall bat control.

His front side also opens up to the ball, taking him away from the outer part of the plate coverage. If he can keep his front side in longer, it will allow him to sit back on the ball to allow it to travel deeper and will result in less awkward swings.

A byproduct of poor swing mechanics, Valdez will get loopy in his swing and has a penchant for hitting high pop ups. Leveling his swing plane out and focusing on beating balls into the ground, with his speed, would allow his average to rise.

Conclusion: Valdez is still young at 20 and was placed above his experience level the past two years. He also dealt with playing in cold weather for the first time in Fort Wayne. He is healed from his wrist injury and the experience could do two things – either further expose flaws that need shoring up or push him to fix those issues in the coming season. The road taken will determine the path ahead.

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