Valerio Finishing Hot

PULASKI, VA - Few hitters have been as hot as third baseman Allen Valerio as the Pulaski Yankees’ regular season draws to a close. Valerio has seen his batting average rise from .217 on July 23 to .274 as of August 25. He’s hit eight homeruns in the 25-game span TOO, and had an 11-game hit streak. He’s also had 24 RBIs.

Along with Valerio, Pulaski has been great this season. They sit atop the eastern division of the Appalachian League with a record of 39-22 and have a six-game lead on the second-place Princeton Rays. That record also leads the entire league.

“I feel like I’ve had a good season so far and it’s great that the team is having success too,” Valerio said through the help of a translator. “I’m happy I’ve been able to help the team have that success.”

For the season Valerio is hitting .274 with 13 doubles, ten home runs, and has posted a robust .900 OPS during his time in Pulaski. Manager Tony Franklin said that Valerio’s hitting isn’t the only thing that stands out either.

“He defends third base very well,” Franklin said. “He’s got good hands, quickness and reflexes. There’s something instinctively defensively about him that stands out.”

Valerio has committed nine errors on the season so far, but that doesn’t worry Franklin or the team’s hitting coach, Edwar Gonzalez.

“Most of the time, they’re silly errors, poor judgment in throwing the ball and things of that nature,” Franklin said. “It is quite a bit you would say for a two and a half months span but nevertheless that doesn’t make me feel like he’s a poor defender.”

“I’ve been coaching for five years and he’s one of the best third basemen I’ve ever seen, especially at this level,” Gonzalez added. “To me, it’s a matter of not playing every day under the lights. If you look at his errors, they mostly happened within the first week or ten days. After that, it hasn’t happened much.”

In fact, five of Valerio's nine errors came in the first six games of the season. However, it's Valerio’s bat has kept him in the lineup and has made him a middle-of-the-order hitter too.

After starting the year with Charleston, Valerio went back to Extended Spring Training to work on his swing. He was struggling at the plate, hitting just .125 in Charleston. Obviously, Valerio wasn’t happy about the demotion, but he thinks it helped motivate him.

“I was motivated to come down here because I got the chance to show them who I can really be,” Valerio said.

“Sometimes, when you take a step back, maybe it’s for the better,” Franklin added. “You find out where you stand and see if you can get back on track. It only took him a few months here to find out he’s got some pretty good pop in his bat.”

Franklin said that he had seen a little of Valerio before the season and that he didn’t know Valerio had this kind of power. Gonzalez, on the other hand, knew Valerio had that ability.

“That’s what a hitter wants, easy, effortless power,” Franklin said. “He will not show you much of that in BP either because he shows it more in the game than in BP.”

“My power has been the same, I’ve just been approaching better pitches and making better contact,” Valerio said. “I’ve been able to take advantage of errors by pitchers.”

Gonzalez said that he’s tried to work on Valerio’s timing and his ability to hit secondary pitches in Pulaski this season.

“They’re throwing breaking balls for strikes that he doesn’t feel like he can hit," Gonzalez said. “He can and does hit them, it’s just a matter of trusting himself. They’re going to throw them because he’s killing fastballs.

“When he does that, he’s going to be dangerous because they won’t have anywhere to go,” Gonzalez said.

His improvement hitting breaking pitches is obvious. Another improvement that Gonzalez has noticed is Valerio’s confidence at the plate.

“I saw him doing bad in Extended [Spring Training] and losing some of that confidence. He didn’t know how to find his swing,” Gonzalez said. “Now, if he has a couple of bad games, he goes right back to doing what he needs to be successful.”

“When I would go hit and miss the first two opportunities, I would just get down on myself,” Valerio said. “Now, I’ve come out on the first at-bat and been aggressive and even if I miss I’m still locked in for the entire game.”

Even with all of the success Valerio has had recently, there is still room for growth and improvement.

“We’ve got to try and find that medium there where he can be constant throughout,” Franklin said. “The ones that do it, they’ll play in the big leagues, no question about it.”

“I have to hit outside pitches better,” Valerio noted. “I need to be more aggressive with that pitch and I need to jump on pitchers when they make mistakes.”

“After this year, he’s going to be challenged to play at a higher level,” Gonzalez added. “Hopefully he performs the way he’s performing now and I think he will be because he seems he knows what to do to be successful.”

Gonzalez and Franklin said that Valerio should have good power and should be a great defender when he reaches his potential.

“He really doesn’t know how powerful he can be,” Gonzalez said. “He’s starting to find that out now and what he needs to do at the plate to be successful.”

“Some guys say you’re going to hit better in the big leagues, because the conditions are better and you see a little better, and I’m sure that’s the case, but he certainly has enough to hit the ball out of the ball park,” Franklin said. “I don’t know if he’s going to be a 25-30 homerun guy, but he certainly has enough to hit maybe 10 or 15 possibly.”

“I’ll be a really good defensive player,” Valerio said. “I’ll hit a lot of doubles and here and there I’ll connect for some home runs. Mostly I’ll be a contact hitter who hits for average though.”

The point is as good as he has been in Pulaski this season nearly everyone feels there is still some considerable ceiling left to be tapped.

With the playoffs for the Appalachian League right around the corner, Valerio is focused on getting better so he can continue to help the team.

“I want to help the team keep winning and finish on a hot streak,” Valerio concluded.

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