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.