So for two years, I’ve questioned Seth Stohs about his Valenciatic Crush. For two years I argued that he was overhyped. And then on Tuesday night I found myself tweeting this during a crucial at-bat:
Is it wrong to be thrilled Valencia is up in this position? If it is, I don't wanna be right.
Again, that was TUESDAY night, not last night. And Valencia rewarded my faith with a clutch hit, just like he did last night when he hit a walk-off single to lead the Twins to a 2-1 win over the Tigers.
So, was I wrong? Have I seen the light?
Well, pretty clearly, I was, because I didn’t expect this much success this soon. (Here are his minor league stats.) Last year in Rochester, Valencia has 37 strikeouts compared to 8 walks, and so I wouldn’t have anticipated much early success from someone who was having trouble reading pitches. I also wouldn’t have expected a 819 OPS in the majors from a guy who posted just a 720 OPS this year in AAA.
What worried me the most about Valencia was his age. He turns 26 years old this month, which is old for a prospect. (For instance, he's older than Delmon Young and about the same age as Alexi Casilla.) But we’ve explored that question on my blog before, and third baseman often end up being a little older, for whatever reason. Corey Koskie, for instance, also debuted as a 25-year-old, and that was a September cup of coffee.
But I was wrong about more than just his age. Valencia’s glovework isn’t at Koskie’s level, but it’s solid, and Ultimate Zone Rating is pegging him as having saved 5 runs over the average major league third baseman this year, and that’s in less than half a season.
He’s also already made adjustments at the plate. When he first came up, he was a dead pull hitter. He still is, but now he’s hitting it with authority, and at least using the center of the field effectively. That’s a real positive adjustment.
Finally, he just seems really happy to be here, soaking it in, having the right attitude. I’ve seen him signing autographs before the game, he is smiling in the dugout, he just doesn’t look like he’s taking this for granted. It’s good to see.
So who is Valencia? I’m still not convinced he’ll ever be an All-Star, but he could be Koskie, only right-handed and without the golden glovework. That would be fine with me and likely with the Twins since he could be around through at least 2016. I’m guessing that would be fine with Valencia too, because Koskie made about $26M over the course of his career.