Scouting Rangers Prospect #46: Jose Vallejo

Armed with outstanding speed and a great glove, Jose Vallejo is one of the more exciting players in the Rangers organization. The second baseman swiped 47 bases in 50 attempts at Class-A Clinton last season. Lone Star Dugout takes a closer look at the 21-year-old with a feature article and in-depth scouting report.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Jose Vallejo
Position: Second Base
DOB: September 11, 1986
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 172
Bats: Both
Throws: Right

Plenty of young players enter professional baseball without knowing exactly how to utilize their talents. That has not been the case for 21-year-old second baseman Jose Vallejo, who says he knows what must be done to help his team.

"The first thing is that I know what my game is," said Vallejo through the translation of Michael Ortiz. "I'm a team player and I know my game is putting the bunts down, getting infield hits, base hits, and stealing bases. My job is to steal the bags, score runs, and help my team win."

Despite his outstanding speed, Vallejo's first few seasons at the plate have been a bit of a struggle. A natural right-handed hitter, Vallejo began switch-hitting during his first pro season in 2005. After batting .260 with 11 doubles and three triples from the left side in 2007, Vallejo says he is beginning to feel more comfortable.

"It was a lot better than last year," said Vallejo of the switch-hitting. "I was working on it this year and I felt that it came to a point where it was almost natural to hit left-handed. I didn't have to think of what to do left-handed. It was like batting right-handed, just on the other side of the plate."

Minor league hitting coordinator Mike Boulanger agrees with the sentiment, but he admits Vallejo still has a ways to go.

"He's a good left-handed hitter but right-handed he's a little more natural," explained Boulanger. "Probably the biggest difference is that he's got more power right-handed.

"But he's getting much better. Mechanically he's much better and he can juice the ball from the left side, but he's got more power from the right. Obviously he's going to have to get a lot more at bats from the left side and that's the way it is. Vallejo has got all the tools; it's just a matter of him putting it together."

Though it doesn't show up in the statistics, Vallejo's defense is part of what makes him a solid prospect. The second baseman combines quick feet, soft hands, and a good arm to make him one of the system's best defensive players. Vallejo's prowess with the glove is something he takes pride in.

"I try to work on my quickness and to get better in general during batting practice," replied Vallejo. "I have great confidence in my hands."

As Vallejo looks to make the jump to High-A Bakersfield in 2008, he realizes this offseason is an important one.

"I want to mainly work on being in the best shape as possible, just like everyone else," he said. "I want to be in top, top shape and gain a couple of pounds of muscle. I want to come back bigger, stronger and faster – just a completely different physical player."

Batting and Power: While Vallejo has done plenty of things well over the past couple of seasons, hitting has not been one of them. Vallejo, who began switch-hitting with the AZL Rangers in 2005, has batted .234 and .269 in the last two seasons with Single-A Clinton, respectively. One aspect Vallejo has made plenty of progress in is his small-ball game. The native of the Dominican Republic has worked hard to become an outstanding bunter in the last two years. Vallejo has all the tools to become an excellent hitter and he hit well in spurts in 2007. When going well, Vallejo can hit some line-drives into the gaps, but he will likely never have much power. Vallejo is able to utilize his speed to leg out infield hits and take extra bases.

Base Running and Speed: Vallejo ranks as one of the best baserunners and speedsters in the Rangers organization. The 21-year-old uses his speed well to cause havoc on the basepaths. Vallejo was successful on 47 of 50 stolen base attempts (94%) last season. He is able to put pressure on opposing defenses with smart, heads-up baserunning. Already armed with plus speed, Vallejo rarely makes a mistake on the basepaths.

Defense: It would probably not be a stretch to declare that Vallejo is the best defensive infielder in the system. If he isn't, it's neck-and-neck with fellow young infielder Elvis Andrus. Vallejo has extremely quick feet, giving him good range at second base. He also has a strong arm – one feature many second basemen lack – that allows him to make hard, accurate throws to first base when going up the middle to make a play. He also has soft hands and a quick release when starting and turning double plays.

Projection: One thing about Vallejo is clear: he must improve at the plate to get a shot at the major leagues. But because of his plus speed and defensive skills, Vallejo is also one of the most exciting players in the system. Though he is unlikely to become a superstar, Vallejo could certainly develop into a valuable role player on a big league club, especially if he progresses as a hitter.

2008 Outlook: After spending two full seasons at Single-A Clinton, Vallejo will look to make the jump to High-A Bakersfield in 2008. Because he will be just 21 years of age for the entire season, it would not be a shock for him to spend the whole season with the Blaze. The 2008 season is a critical one for Vallejo, as it will be his fourth season of switch-hitting and he must begin to show results at the plate.

ETA: 2010.

2005 AZL Rangers (RK) .291 203 7 1 15 28 18 19 49 .364 .360
2006 Clinton (A) .234 496 11 2 29 62 24 32 104 .289 .284
2007 Clinton (A) .269 513 17 1 46 68 47 44 102 .326 .327

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