Jesmuel Valentin doesn't turn 23 until mid-may, but he's already reached Triple-A and put up solid numbers for Lehigh Valley last season in his first shot at the highest minor league level. Valentin opened last season at Double-A Reading after missing most of the 2015 season because of a suspension resulting from a domestic violence incident. The young infielder seems to have learned his lesson and played well with Reading before being bumped to Lehigh Valley in late July.
As with most players, Valentin found out that there is a difference in levels and had some struggles with the IronPigs, hitting .248 compared to the .276 average he put up with the Fightins. Another big difference was the jump in strikeout percentage, whiffing in 14% of his plate appearances at Double-A, while going down on strikes in 19% of his plate appearances at the Triple-A level. The 14% number was exactly where Valentin stood coming into the season. It should be pointed out that Valentin's walk percentage was consistent between the two levels, with just a dip of 0.3% when he moved up to the IronPigs.
It's easy to correlate Valentin's drop in average from Double-A to Triple-A based on his strikeout percentage. Making contact is Valentin's key to success. Very simply, when Valentin makes contact, he reaches base, having a career .310 average on balls in play, which was at .313 at Reading and dipped to .284 with Lehigh Valley.
Being a switch-hitter, Valentin sprays the ball around the field, but his power comes generally from the left side of the plate. He doesn't possess great power, but can occasionally turn on a pitch. Generally, Valentin is a singles hitter, who just looks to get on base. Occasionally, he pokes a ball into a gap and goes for extra bases, but is that basic get-on-base type of hitter that has the ability to be effective in setting up the bigger bats in the lineup.
Jesmuel Valentin spray chart
Defensively, if the Phillies ran into a run of injuries and just needed someone to put on the field and use their glove, Valentin could be their man. The Phillies kept Valentin primarily at second base since acquiring him from the Dodgers, but have used him some at short.While in the Dodgers organization, Valentin played both middle infield spots, in addition to some third base and a little bit in the corner outfield spots. His best defensive position is undoubtedly second base, but he's able to play the other positions without much concern about his glove.
The question on Valentin all comes down to just how much he will be able to hit at the major league level. Versatility will be a key, because at this point, Valentin doesn't project as a long-term answer at any one position, but he can hold down a position to cover an injury and could stick with a club as a utility player at some point down the road.
It will be interesting to see if the Phillies start to work him into other positions this season or if they keep him concentrated on playing second base. With Cesar Hernandez anchoring second base in Philadelphia, Freddy Galvis a potential takeover threat at the position once J.P. Crawford arrives in Philadelphia, and second base prospect Scott Kingery not far behind, the handwriting about Valentin's future with the Phillies is on the wall. He's either going to make it as a utility player or have to find a home elsewhere if he's going to have a shot at making the majors as an everyday second baseman.
Jesmuel Valentin's career stats
|Minors (5 seasons)||414||1497||274||394||75||21||23||160||187||259||.263||.348||.387|