Prospect of the Day: Jordany Valdespin, INF-OF, New York Mets
New York Mets rookie Jordany Valdespin was the hero for the Mets on May 7th, hitting a three-run homer to win the game against the Philadelphia Phillies. Let's take a look at his strengths and weaknesses as prospect and what his future may hold.
Valdespin was signed by the Mets as a free agent from the Dominican Republic in 2007. He quickly adjusted to pitching in North America with a solid rookie ball campaign in 2008, hitting .284/.319/.440 in 34 games for the Gulf Coast League Mets. He got off to a strong start for Low-A Savannah in 2009 and ended up hitting .322/.366/.480 in 39 games, but got himself demoted back to extended spring training after an outburst of insubordination, then missed two months with an ankle injury.
Moved up to High-A St. Lucie for 2010, he hit .289/.323/.437 in 65 games. His performance earned him a promotion to Double-A, where he hit .232/.243/.304 in 28 games and had significant problems with plate discipline, drawing just two walks with 23 strikeouts in 112 at-bats. He continued to irritate coaches and scouts with his personality, but the athleticism and juice in his bat was evident.
Returned to Double-A for 2011, Valdespin hit .297/.341/.483 with 15 homers and 33 steals in 107 games for Binghamton, earning a promotion to Triple-A Buffalo, where he hit .280/.304/.411 in 27 games. He was at .276/.321/.368 in 17 contests for the Bisons before his promotion to the majors. Interestingly, he's shown better plate discipline (albeit in a small sample), with a 5/7 BB/K ratio in Triple-A 76 at-bats this year, compared to 4/25 in 107.
Valdespin is a 6-0, 190 pound left-handed hitter and right-handed thrower, born December 23, 1987. He's strong for his size and has enough bat speed to put a charge in the ball, although he goes through phases where he'll sell out for power. He's been impatient for most of his career and on-base percentage has not been his strength, although he's shown some improvement in that regard this spring. Likewise, he runs very well but is still learning how to steal bases efficiently. He stole 37 bases last year but was caught 18 times, and was just 2-for-4 at Buffalo this year.
On defense, he's split his playing time between second base and shortstop. He's better at second due to a so-so arm. He was playing center field in Buffalo before his promotion, with reasonable results, and he has the athleticism to play all over the field if he puts in the work.
Valdespin's biggest handicap has been himself: he had some intense run-ins with coaches and managers early in his career and has been criticized for lack of effort. That said, he seems to have improved in those departments over the last year, and he's clearly made progress refining his skills. Scouts have long memories, but Valdespin has the tools to be a very useful player, at least in a utility role, if his progress with the mental aspects of baseball continues in a positive direction.