Is Jordany Valdespin a long shot for the Opening Day roster?

Mets beat writer Anthony DiComo, on his Mets Cetera blog, has up a projected Opening Day roster. DiComo notes, “this is an exercise in futility: we will only consider players who are currently under team control, even though the Mets are likely to add at least one starting pitcher, reliever and perhaps outfielder before Opening Day.”

If you understand the restraints, it’s not futile at all. Let’s examine his list, specifically his bench. DiComo’s reserves are: Andrew Brown, Collin Cowgill, Brandon Hicks, Anthony Recker and Justin Turner. Conspicuous by his absence is Jordany Valdespin.

Now, I am not a Valdespin fan. I did not include him in my 2012 Top Prospects list and I advocated trading him in the middle of his pinch-hitting exploits last year. My belief is that his OBP and so-so defense will prevent him from ever being a useful MLB regular.

But there’s a difference between useful MLB regular and useful bench player. Valdepin has his weaknesses but he also has strengths. He can play in both the infield and outfield, he has some power and he has some speed. And we know he is not going to crumble in big moments with the game on the line. Would you want any of the five guys listed by DiComo above at the plate in the ninth inning with a team’s closer in the game more than you would want Valdespin?

As righty-hitting outfielders likely in a platoon role with the proposed starters, Brown and Cowgill deserve spots in this exercise. And Recker makes it as the backup catcher. So it comes down to battling Hicks and Turner for a backup infielder spot. Let’s focus on those two and Valdespin.

Pros – Can play all four infield positions, hit 36 HR the past two years in Triple-A
Cons – Has a .493 lifetime OPS in the majors and was released by the A’s last season

Pros – Had a terrific hot streak when first called up in 2011, has a solid 15.72 OBI% (RBI man!)
Cons – Lousy defensive player; BB% just as bad as Valdespin’s last year

Pros – Would be only lefty on bench, .893 OPS as pinch-hitter last year
Cons – Attitude questions, defense not a strength

There are those that suggest that Valdespin would be better off in Triple-A playing every day. Perhaps that’s still true, but my belief is that Valdespin already is what he’s going to be – a useful bench player. So, we should evaluate him on that basis. Are his combination of strengths and weaknesses as a bench player more of a net plus than Hicks or Turner?

It remains to be seen what the Mets have in Hicks. It’s hard to look at his minor league numbers and not be intrigued. Yet the team that had him and saw him up close and personal decided to release him. Now, that’s not the final word by any means but it has to count for something.

Hicks should be one of the guys to get the most playing time in Spring Training. The Mets have to see for themselves what they have and how much he can help. Can he be a solid defensive middle infielder? Can he do better at the infield corners than Turner? And can he produce better with the bat than what he has done so far in his 98 PA in the majors?

In my mind, among these three players, it should be Hicks and Turner battling for the other backup infielder spot along with Valdespin. While he is exposed as an everyday player, Valdespin fits in nicely as a backup. You need a HR off the bench/? He can do that. You need a SB from a PR? He can get you one. You need to make a defensive switch and move an OF to the bench? He can fake it out there, just like he can at 2B and SS.

Valdespin offers a package greater in its breadth than either Hicks or Turner. While he does not have any one skill that would stamp him as a starter, his ability to contribute in multiple ways is an ideal thing for a five-man bench. To me the big question with Valdespin is if he can be happy in a role where he maxes out at 200 PA a year. We heard so much about his attitude problems while in the minors – and again this year in Winter Ball – that it needs to be considered.

Of course, when it comes to bench players, we also need to factor Omar Qunitanilla in the discussion, too.

7 comments for “Is Jordany Valdespin a long shot for the Opening Day roster?

  1. steevy
    January 20, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    Valdespin’s speed is even more valuable on the Mets since they are such a slow team.

    • January 20, 2013 at 8:30 pm

      I know I’ve said it before but Valdespin’s speed – specifically his ability to deploy the drag bunt – was way underutilized last year.

  2. Jerry Grote
    January 21, 2013 at 8:41 am

    I know we’re looking at Valdespin as an OFer, but the Mets really need to be thinking in terms of spelling Tejada.

    I think you need to plan on 100-110 ABs at SS when Tejada doesn’t play. Not a huge fan of Valdespin, but … given my choices between a young Valdespin and a veteran like Q … I’m going youth all the way. Plus I’ve got flexibility with V in terms of playing OF/IF.

    The roster spot is V’s to lose.

  3. Metsense
    January 21, 2013 at 10:47 pm

    Turner: 2 HR, 19 RBI, .711 OPS OPS 0.0 UZR
    Valdespin: 8 HR, 26 RBI, .710 OPS 0.2 UZR
    The average Nl second baseman has .713 OPS
    Turner is an average second baseman and on poor team could win a starting job. I like him as a person and player but he really is only a second baseman. Valentin I don’t think of too highly as a teammate but he has more power, is faster and is more versatile. He would take my bench spot over Turner. I really expected Turner (or Murphy) to be traded as part of a package for an outfielder this winter. I just can’t figure why Sandy has not traded for an outfielder.

  4. Jay L
    January 24, 2013 at 8:41 am

    I don’t see Cowgill AND Brown landing spots on the team. I think 1 of those guys and Valdespin round out the bench…but I guess this all depends on whether the Mets are done making moves

    • January 24, 2013 at 8:44 am

      In reality – that’s a good point.

      But for this exercise we were just going with who the Mets have on their roster right now. It’ll be curious to see if they are still in on an OF now that they’ve reached agreement to sign Shaun Marcum.

  5. Dan Stack
    January 25, 2013 at 6:49 am

    He’s the man right now.

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