A product of last season’s post-trade deadline deadline that sent Roberto Hernandez to the Dodgers, infielder Jesmuel Valentin has loads of potential and could be an eventual successor to six-time All-Star Chase Utley at second base for the Phillies.
Selected with the 51st overall draft pick in 2012, Valentin was quickly a well-hyped prospect in the Los Angeles system. Upon signing his initial professional contract, the five-foot-nine 180-pounder debuted in the rookie level Arizona League, posting a .211 average while lacing two homers and driving in 18 runs in 43 games.
In 2013 he began the season in the rookie level Pioneer League, where he batted .284 with four homers and 24 RBI in 62 games. A promotion to the Class A Great Lakes team followed and Valentin, as a 19-year-old, struggled a bit, batting .212 with six doubles, a triple and five RBI in 33 games.
Last year, Valentin repeated Class A and proved ready for the challenge. In 108 games for the Loons, he batted .280 with seven home runs and 47 RBI in 108 contests, making himself a desirable commodity to the Dodgers’ potential trade partners. After joining the Phillies’ organization in August, Valentin was assigned to Class A Advanced Clearwater where he posted a .205 average in 12 games.
A switch-hitter, Valentin produces better from the left side, posting an .826 OPS against righty hurlers with Great Lakes last year, compared to his .660 OPS mark from the right side. There’s not a great amount of power in his bat, but as a contact hitter that can spray the ball to all fields, the youngster could develop a prototypical middle infield bat.
On defense, the 20-year-old is described as polished. He sports a good arm and has excellent range. Primarily a second baseman in the pro ranks, Valentin has also played 73 minor league games at shortstop, but none of those were played last season.
The bloodline is a plus for Valentin, whose father Jose played shortstop in the big leagues with the Dodgers, Mets, White Sox and Brewers. Jose’s brother, Javier, also played in the majors as a catcher.
On the bases Jesmuel does not have plus speed, but can be a contributor as a stolen base threat. He swiped 25 bags in 33 attempts last season and has tallied a 69% success rate for his career in the lower levels where there are often no true first base coaches to time pitchers’ deliveries and focus on improving their runners’ chances on the base paths.
The Puerto Rico native tallied a .278 average with three doubles, two triples and 12 RBI in 29 regular season games with Mayaguez in the Roberto Clemente (Puerto Rican) League this off-season. He remains active with Mayaguez in their postseason, batting .273 through games played on Sunday.
There’s no doubt that Valentin, who turns 21 in May, will enter the upcoming season ready for the challenge of the Class A Advanced Florida State League.
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