Mets should sell high on Jordany Valdespin

In the last game before the All-Star break, the Mets trotted Jordany Valdespin out to center field, where he made several nice running catches and did not look too much like a guy playing out of position. He went 1-for-3 in the game and now has a .257/.297/.529 slash line. He’s come up with some big hits and has developed into a mini folk hero among Mets fans for his performances against Jonathon Papelbon.

And now is the time to trade him.

There is no doubt that Valdespin brings things to the table. He is confident, athletic and a hard worker. Now we just have to determine how good he is. Do you really believe the slash line quoted above is an accurate sample of his “true” ability? To me, the AVG and OBP look about what I expected. It’s that .529 SLG that looks completely out of place.

In 70 ABs in the majors, Valdespin has 10 extra-base hits. In over 14 percent of his at-bats, Valdespin is notching either a double, triple or home run. For a comparison, David Wright records an XBH in 13 percent of his ABs. If Valdespin had 500 ABs in a season, do you really think he would have 70 extra-base hits? I do not yet that is the pace he is on.

If we look further down the stat sheet, we see the reason to be worried about Valdespin going forward. He has just two walks this year and a 2.7 BB%. There is only one player with enough plate appearances to rank as qualified on the FanGraphs leaderboards this year with a walk rate that low – Alexei Ramirez. In 337 PA this season, Ramirez has walked just nine times, for an identical 2.7 BB%.

Ramirez has a .266/.287/.341 slash line – a SLG mark 188 points below Valdespin’s current rate. And it’s not like Ramirez is a slap hitter. He had 21 HR in his rookie season and has 69 homers from 2008-2011. Much like Valdespin, Ramirez played multiple positions when he first made the majors. He played 2B, 3B, SS and CF in 2008 before settling in as the starting shortstop for the White Sox.

Only 19 qualified players in 2012 have a BB%<5.0 for the season. It is not easy to be a regular in the majors and be that much of a free-swinger. Valdespin has a .271 ISO right now and only three regulars combine his dismal walk rate and an ISO of .200 or greater. They are Ian Desmond, Adam Jones and Alex Rios.

In six seasons in the minors, Desmond’s highest ISO was .158 and his two previous seasons in the majors he posted ISOs of .124 and .104 last year. What he is doing this year is completely out of character compared to what he has done in eight seasons of professional baseball.

Jones had a .272 ISO in his last season in the minors. He’s made steady progress in the majors and last year had a .186 ISO. He seems to be a player capable of posting a poor walk rate and a high ISO but his BB% is 4.4 compared to Valdespin’s 2.7 percent.

In 2006 and 2007, Rios posted back-to-back years with ISOs over .200 but his walk rate was in the 7.3 range. Last year he had a .121 ISO and a 4.7 BB%. He’s barely over a .200 ISO this year and probably will not finish the season as a low BB high ISO guy under these parameters.

So, do you think Valdespin is more like Jones or does he seem more like Ramirez or Alcides Escobar (4.3 BB%, .103 ISO) or Willie Bloomquist (4.4, 0.99)? Or my favorite comp for him – Yuniesky Betancourt, he of the lifetime 3.4 BB%, .125 ISO and .684 OPS.

Valdespin had a .186 ISO in Double-A last year and a .141 ISO in Triple-A this year. Before the season began, ZiPS projected him for a .120 ISO in the majors. A triple slash line of .257/.297/.377 looks entirely reasonable but how valuable is that player? That’s a .674 OPS or essentially what Justin Turner has produced this season.

That’s a bottom-tier starter at either second or short in the majors and a fine backup.

But Sandy Alderson and company should be exploring if his youth and his early-season power numbers have other teams convinced he’s more than that and are willing to trade something worthwhile to get him. Valdespin is a sell-high candidate and Mets fans should be willing to deal him for a top-notch set-up man or an impact RHB.

8 comments for “Mets should sell high on Jordany Valdespin

  1. Metsense
    July 9, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    Very keen analysis and logical argument. He does have good minor league #’s in 2010 with an .801 OPS which would qualify him as an above avg national leaguer if he can transpose those into major leauge #’s which apparently he has in 2012. So, will he be better than Murphy at 2B? Kirk in CF? DenDecker in CF? One of these three or Jordanny will eventually have to go. Any one of these four players could be traded and whoever brings back the most should be the one. Thanks Brian for a interesting read.

    • July 9, 2012 at 12:52 pm

      I have no doubt that Murphy is a better hitter than Valdespin and I think he’s a better overall player. I think Kirk is better, too but I don’t know about Den Dekker at this point. I don’t think we can say just to trade whoever gets us the better player among these four. It would have to be a noticeably better player for me to trade Murphy and install Valdespin at 2B.

      • NormE
        July 9, 2012 at 1:03 pm

        For the right deal no one on the 25 man roster (except Wright, Tejada, Dickey and possibly Niese) is untouchable.
        The key is finding the right deal.

        • 7train
          July 9, 2012 at 3:24 pm

          Well reasoned argument Brian but I wouldn’t for a few reasons.

          1) What if he does become more selective? Everything else is there and his environment is conducive to selectivity. He’s even displayed it in that AB against Philly where he got HBP. Further as a prospect just coming up and as a pinch hitter one can’t be too down on him especially with so few AB’s to date.

          2) He’s a lefty hitter who actually hits LHP, something I’m beginning to think Kirk and Davis will never do and Duda will be little more than a singles hitter against. Considering how LH our lineup is and how poorly we do against leftys I think it’s critical to keep one of the few leftys who does hit them.

          3) Defense. Another huge need on this team. Specifically LF and quite possibly CF and the ability to play 2B and even SS in an emergency.

          I’d keep him, play him wherever I can, whenever I can and have Hudgens work with him as much as possible and while there is a good chance of him being Betencourt if he can just get a handle on pitch recognition he could be vintage Chase Utley on offense with Chone Figgins versaltility and just might steal a fulltime job somewhere or save a season if someone goes down.

          With as small a return as a relief pitcher I’ll gamble the downside because the upside is sky high. Like a 25-1 payoff if just one issue gets settled.

          With playing time and staying in the Majors on the line and the already established culture bought in by so many of his teammates I think it’s a very worthwhile wager.

    • 7train
      July 9, 2012 at 4:22 pm

      I really feel that Duda has to be the one to go. The defense is never going to be there and yet there is plenty of upside with Lucas in the right situation. Tampa Bay could use a first basemen and a DH. They could on occasion put Lucas in RF and play Zobrist at 2B as well. He’s team controlled for 4 more years and belongs in the AL.

      Duda takes care of a big need for Tampa who has very little LH power in AAA, AA and A+ and what they do have is pretty old for it’s level. I’m a big proponent of seeing what else besides Duda it would take to bring in Mikie Mahtook to install in RF come 2014 and let den Dekker and Valdespin sort themselves out in CF with Kirk and Campbell/Lagares/Taijeron in LF and Vaughn, Puello and Ceciliani (if not traded) in AAA.

      If Tampa doesn’t value Lucas (+) as highly we do perhaps Boston is looking for a new DH or maybe Baltimore. In that small OF Lucas might even thrive. Cleveland, Toronto and Texas (if they lose Hamilton) could be interested. There’s any number of possibilities but they need to be gone through because we can’t platoon every OFer and then bring another one in for defense on top of it.

      • July 9, 2012 at 4:27 pm

        It’s funny that you mention Mahtook — he’s the guy I was hoping the Mets would take with their 2011 first-round pick, the one they used on Nimmo. I was surprised he fell as much as he did.

        He’s doing okay here in 2012 – not as much power as you might hope but it’s the FSL, so it’s a bit understandable.

        I wouldn’t give up too much besides Duda to get Mahtook.

        • 7train
          July 9, 2012 at 6:23 pm

          I was hoping for Swihart myself but was very surprised as well to see Mahtook slide so far. He would really solidify RF in a few years and with good defense too. 13 doubles, 6 triples and 4 HR’s in half a year isn’t bad for a first year pro.

          I’m really interested in having a good solid defense when Harvey, Mejia, Familia and Wheeler arrive or it’s going to make things so much tougher for them.

      • July 10, 2012 at 1:59 am

        Glad to see I’m not the only Mets fan who thinks Duda might be the guy worth trading.
        The fan in me feels bad since he’s a kid with a confidence issue who’s working it out on the biggest stage in the world, but there’s only so much slowness in the field and on the basepaths I can take from a guy who gets hot in spurts.

        I could see a trade to someone like Joe Maddon as a good move for the kid and for our team.

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