Valera Picking It Up

STATEN ISLAND, NY - Junior Valera made a bit of a name for himself at the lower levels as a speedy middle infielder who was learning how to switch-hit. As his combined .317 average the previous two seasons have proven, the switch-hitting has come around nicely. Now, however, the Yankees have transitioned yet again, this time to the outfield, and by all accounts he's picking it up well.

Venturing to the United States from San Cristobal, Dominican Republic, 22-year old Junior Valera made his debut for the Staten Island Yankees this 2015 season. Originally working the infield as a second baseman and shortstop in the Gulf Coast League (GCL), Valera began working on his new role as an outfielder in Extended Spring Training, where his impeccable speed and strong build have influenced a solid start to the season.

“Junior was a second baseman for me last year in the Gulf Coast League and he did a great job," Staten Island manager Pat Osborn said. “I think the idea was that the middle of our infield within the lower levels of the organization is very stacked with players, so they wanted to move him out to centerfield because he profiles well out there; he runs, he switch-hits he gets on base, everything he can do we look for in a centerfielder and he’s picked up very well.”

Hitting the gym to lift weights and working on his running were two things Valera solely focused on in the offseason. Defensively, his workout methods gave him a great arm to throw to the infield and put the ball in play. Offensively, Valera has had a knack for hitting the ball into the barrel with some power and swiftly running the bases with his graceful speed.

“I didn’t have a lot of experience in the outfield and started playing in the Gulf Coast League in Dominican Republic, but day by day I feel more comfortable,” Valera said through the help of a translator. “I favor the position more because, in the infield, you have to be all over the place at the same time so in the outfield I get to focus on doing a more efficient job.”

Since the start of the season Valera has scored eights runs, driven in ten, has had five stolen bases and has made efficient places as a right and centerfielder in just thirteen games in the outfield.

“I feel good for this season," Valera said. "I have a long way to go, on a bigger level you have to be more consistent and working hard every single day."

With the rest of the season to go, Valera will continue to use his speed as a weapon, personally wanting to achieve the goal of stealing 30 bases by the end of the season. As far as the expectations of his coaches, Valera’s maturity and dedication to the game helps them see a promising future of success.

“I expect him to do what he’s been doing so far, he was one of my best players last year in the gulf cost league and now he is more mature,” Osborne said. “How he carries himself on and off the field, just growing up within the game you learn how to be a professional and you see improvement on the field.

"He’s a year older, he’s a year wiser and he’s been great for a guy thats only been playing out there for a couple of months. He’s only going to get better with repetition.”

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