Sunday, February 20, 2011

Luis Valbuena: One More Shot?

photo from Cleveland.com
It was a much more than a sophomore slump, it was the total collapse of a player who had a breakout year in the minors in 2008 and a respectable rookie year with the Indians after a blistering start in AAA Columbus in 2010. Valbuena may be one of the few Indians prospects that have been rushed up to the major leagues.  To date, Valbuena still only has 460 AAA Plate Appearances and he only had 341 prior to his 2009 call up.  Valbuena has been unable to settle in to any position in the infield, although 2b appears to be his best position.  After signing Orlando Cabrera to play 2b, what plans do the Indians have for Luis Valbuena?  With Jason Kipnis/Cord Phelps on their way up at 2b,  Lonnie Chisenhall on his way to 3b, and Jason Donald available as a true utility infielder where is there room for Valbuena to play?  I can see Valbuena being the 2b/3b utility guy and when Asdrubal needs a day off pushing Orlando Cabrera to shortstop but being able to play shortstop in a pinch. 



 

On August 29, 2002 the Seattle Mariners signed 16 year old infielder Luis Valbuena and sent him to play in the Venezuelan Summer League for the 2003 and 2004 seasons.  In 2005, Valbuena made his way stateside where he spent the majority of the season at low A Everett of the Northwest League.  He hit .261/.333/.433 with 12 HR and 51 RBI in 325 plate appearances.  In 2006, Valbuena played 89 games in A ball Wisconsin of the Midwest League and hit .286/.371/.400.  Valbuena did see his home run production drop to only 3 HR in 373 PA but saw his walk rate increase from 7.6% to 11.8%.  He was promoted to High A Innland Empire of the California league where he struggled finishing the season hitting .252/.315/.362 covering 181 plate appearances. 

Valbuena, still only 21 years old,  was promoted to AA West Tennessee of the Southern League for the 2007 season.  He struggled there hitting .239/.311/.378 with 11 HRs, a BB% of 9.5, a  K% of 18.7, and a wOBA of .312.  He began the 2008 season in West Tennessee where his talent would finally blossom.  He hit .304/.381/.483 with 9 HR in 246 PA, increased his BB% to 11.2%,  decreased his K% to 15.4, and had an impressive .383 wOBA.   After 70 games in West Tennessee, Valbuena was promoted to AAA Tacoma of the Pacific Coast League.  Valbuena continued to find success in Tacoma as he hit .302/.383/.373, maintained a BB% of 11.4, a  K% of 15.1, and a wOBA of .360.  Valbuena's successful season would be rewarded with a September callup by the Mariners.  The 22 year old Valbuena played the final 18 games of the 2008 season and hit .245/.315/.347 over 54 plate appearances.

On December 11, 2008, the Mariners included Luis Valbuena in a three team trade.  The Mariners traded Valbuena to the Indians and Sean Green, J.J. Putz and Jeremy Reed to the Mets.  The Mariners received Ezequiel Carrera, Maikel Cleto, Mike Carp, Endy Chavez, Aaron Heilman, and Jason Vargas from the Mets and Franklin Guitierrez from the Indians.  The Indians also received Joe Smith from the Mets. 

The Indians planned to take their time with Valbuena and sent him to AAA Columbus to start the 2009 season.  After 23 games in Columbus, Valbuena was hitting  .321/.436/.538 with 3 HR, a 16.8 BB%, a 16.7 K%, and a wOBA of .434.  Valbuena was called up on May 2nd to replace Tony Graffanino as the utility infielder.  He finished the season hitting .250/.298/.416 over 353 plate appearances.  There was some mystery as to how Valbuena BB% decreased to 6.5% and his K% increased to 22.6% and a little surprised that he hit a combined 13 HR on the year.

In 2010, the Indians signed veteran 2b Mark Grudzielanek to be the right handed platoon at 2b with  Valbuena.  Valbuena had an awful time adjusting to his 2nd year in the big leagues.  Through June 24th he was hitting .166/.269/.245 so the Indians sent him back to Columbus.  Valbuena pleyed just 25 games at Columbus and hit .313/.427/.604 with 6 HR, a BB% of  16% and a K% of 19.4%.  He was recalled on July 28, 2010 after the Indians traded Johnny Peralta to the Detroit Tigers.  Valbuena resumed his big league struggles finishing his final 42 games hitting .226/.278/.274 with a a BB% of only 6% and a still high K% of 18%.  Overall, Valbuena's 2010 major league numbers included a dismal slash line of  .193/.273/.258 with a 9% BB rate and a 22.2% K rate.  Valbuena had an extremely low BABIP of .236 but a 45.9% GB rate (league aveage is 43.2%). 

Some interestin articles concerning Valbuena that I came across:

The Perplexing Luis Valbuena 

Valbuena Following Familiar Path


 




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