This season, Jose Valdez, a right-handed reliever that hails from the Dominican Republic has made great strides, improving his prospect status with the Detroit Tigers. Valdez, 23, posted a 2.73 ERA, with 35 strikeouts and 16 saves over 26 1/3 innings for the Whitecaps; earning himself a trip to the MWL All-Star Game and a promotion to the FSL. Since arriving in Lakeland, Valdez has earned a win, notched four saves and has struck out 14 over 8 1/3 innings.
Listed at 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, Valdez has a strong and solid frame.
Valdez works almost exclusively from the stretch, delivering the ball from an overhand minus slot. His delivery isn't overly aggressive, but there is noticeable effort. The consistency of Valdez's mechanics varies from outing to outing. A direct result of the inconsistency, Valdez often struggles with his release and his command and control come and go.
On the mound, Valdez's bread and butter is his raw mid-90s plus-fastball that occasionally touches the upper 90s. He works his fastball around the strike zone well and is not afraid to pitch inside or elevate the ball. Valdez gets solid natural life and opposing batters struggle to square up on the ball when he's at his best. That being said, as I previously noted, control and command are often a thorn in Valdez's side. The movement periodically flattens out, especially up in the zone, and home plate has a tendency to dance around at times.
Valdez also works in a mid-to-high-80s slider that he throws regularly, regardless of the count. He throws the offering for strikes and also utilizes it as a chase pitch. Much like the fastball, the consistency of the slider varies. Still, Valdez will snap off the occasional above-average slider, showcasing it's potential.
Similar to the occasional inconsistency of Valdez's stuff, the opinions of MLB Scouts are also a bit of a mixed bag on the Flying Tigers closer. Regardless, the majority of scouts forecast a late-inning setup-man ceiling on Valdez, which is absolutely encouraging.
"Really like the life on the fastball; good combination of velocity and life that lets him miss bats." The MLB scout further added, "I saw a couple nice sliders but the sharpness was inconsistent. I could see a setup guy down the line."
Another MLB scout wasn't as optimistic, stating, "[Valdez] Can ramp it up to 97 but there's some effort to make it happen. The slider didn't show that well for me and neither did the command."
A third MLB Scout placed an "8th inning ceiling" on Valdez. He further stated, "I don't think he throws enough strikes to close but the fastball is really impressive and the slider has its moments."
TigsTown's Director of Scouting Mark Anderson was also kind enough to weigh in, stating that Valdez is "one of the better relief prospects in the Tigers system." Echoing the concerns of the MLB scouts, Mark also added that Valdez "needs to iron out some effort in his delivery to throw more strikes and find consistency with the breaking ball". Anderson also placed a 7th or 8th inning ceiling on the big right-hander.
Valdez is raw with a capital R, and anything but a "sure thing". Regardless, even with the inconsistencies, Valdez is a prospect that I'm intrigued by and interested in. Valdez keeps the ball in the yard--just three home runs allowed over 126 2/3 innings--five seasons. Jose has also averaged an impressive 10.8 K/9 ratio over that five-year span. Armed with an electric fastball and an improving slider, Valdez is a promising late-inning relief prospect that's worth keeping an eye on if you're a Tigers fan.
James Chipman is the Lakeland Correspondent for TigsTown. Be sure to follow him on twitter @JAYRC_TigsTown.