Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Real Danny Valencia

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.


Jack Ungerleider said...

Nice write up John. Two things:

1. If I remember correctly Koskie didn't start off as a gold glove caliber 3rd baseman. So one might expect improvement over time.

2. I realize he's only been up for half the season, but if the Twins win the division, without a game 163, and Valencia is a big part of it, do you think he get's any consideration as Rookie of the Year?

jjswol said...

Valencia does appear to get key hits now and then but according to ELIAS, prior to last night, "Danny Valencia the Twins rookie third baseman had only one RBI in the seventh inning or later in the 28 games he played in August".

Couple that with the fact that he has not had a walk-off hit since college and you have to ask yourself, is he hitting a hollow .300+?

TT said...

Valencia is doing very well. He changed his approach even before being called up and it seems to have worked. But its important to remember what I think of as the Tom Kelly Rule. Until a player has 1000 major league plate appearances, you don't really know what you have.

That said, I am not concerned that Valencia has only one RBI after the 6th inning in August. I also don't care that last night was his first walk off hit on the first Wednesday in September since he played Little League. If you look hard enough, you can find some reason any statistic is "empty" if it doesn't confirm your pre-conceived opinion.

Anonymous said...

Some other deeply troubling useful analysis stats on Valencia...
- His RBI-per-minute stat is absolutely dreadful.
- He has no RBI at all from the 18th inning or later.
- With guys named 'Clarence' on 2nd or 3rd with 2 outs, Valencia is hitting a woeful .128.
- On 3-2 pitches late in away games with a full moon where the barometric pressure is over 80, Valencia has not even recorded an at bat.
- Since September 1st, Valencia has only driven in a single run batted in.

writerjoel said...

Okay, is Valencia the best the Twins can do? Can they trade for any number of candidates that they didn't get last year? Yes!

But, is he better than Harris or Nick Punto? Today, the answer is yes.

Just like when you look at second base, can Alexi put up numbers that would be on par with Orlando Hudson? Yes.

So, looks like those two palces are set, along with Hardy, for the infield.

If Hardy can truly regain his power, we can have the lighter-weights at 2B and SS. Valencia...would like to see at least 10-15 dingers. But, if he hits .300 (and ends the season with that average and 300 ABs), I would be more than pleased if it frees up money to spend elsewhere.