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February 9, 2005

by Fabian


Jose Valdez, 22, RHP

Back in my more naïve days, my feelings towards Jose Valdez were similar to the way I currently feel about Eric Abreu. Specifically, it was after the 2002 minor league season had been completed and the Yankee minor league system wasn’t looking so great. Then it was mentioned on BA that the Yankees had some young power arms coming through the system, one of which was Jose Valdez, a lanky Dominican right-hander who could consistently pump fastballs in the 90s. Well, here we are some 2+ years later and Valdez has yet to make much of an impact in the system. He has progressed about a level at a time, without any dominant showings, 2004 was no different in this regard as he spent the entire year at Tampa.

Something that I like to separate is pitcher command as opposed to pitcher control. A pitcher with good control will have the ball in the strike zone on a consistent basis. A pitcher with good command will, in addition to having the ball in the strike zone on a consistent basis, throw tough strikes. Pitches that are difficult to drive when the hitter makes contact. In ’04 Valdez displayed decent control, about 3.1 BB/9, but poor command. This lack of command did not show up in his home run totals because Valdez is a groundball pitcher, but showed up in his high doubles allowed total.

From a scouting pointing point of view, much of Valdez’s troubles come from inconsistency generated by an abnormal pitching motion that is difficult for the right-hander to consistently duplicate. Statistics bear this out as well. Rather than consistently allow the offense to do damage, Valdez would often shut opponents down for spurts of a couple innings only to fall apart.

Valdez’s inconsistency combined with his lack of any standout secondary pitches, his best seems to be an…inconsistent splitter, leads me to believe that he should be moved to the bullpen, where I think he would become a huge asset. Other than 2003 where he gave up 14 home runs in 134 innings, Valdez has always been good at keeping the ball in the park, which is key for any late-inning reliever, and he has given up just 12 home runs in 257 career minor league innings when ’03 is ignored. Valdez’s stuff also translates better to the bullpen where his fastball should be in the mid-90s as he no longer needs to restrain himself and there won’t be as much of a worry about his secondary pitches.

Overall, I would look at ’04 as a year where Valdez was stagnant in his progress as a prospect. Thus far there have been no reports of the Yankees switching him to the bullpen so it looks as though he will get another chance to establish himself as a legitimate starting pitching prospect for AA Trenton. I wouldn’t expect to him have anything more than a mediocre year based on what he’s done thus far in the minors and almost expect his numbers to worsen. The quicker he is moved to the bullpen, the better, it is in that role that I think his prospect status will rise and why he makes this list.

Next prospect: Position player