photo: Breyvic Valera (Jake Roth/USA TODAY Sports Images)
by The Cardinal Nation staff
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Link to Valera’s player page at The Cardinal Nation, with additional biography and history information.
Selected 2017 stats
TCN Scouting Grade: 3, Risk: Safe (click here to review scales)
Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)
Message board community (45): Breyvic Valera began receiving some community votes from bccran at vote #37. The infielder ended up being voted in as the #45 prospect in our community rankings, slightly higher than Brian and Derek had him here. 45th is also a drop from last year when the community had him ranked at #35 and a significant drop from his highest ranking of #15 back in 2015. As mentioned last year, Valera began receiving community votes as far back as 2012, when he finished in the mid-40s then as well.
Last year, many posters were touting Valera’s consistency and versatility in justifying his position in the top 40 prospects. After putting up an .819 OPS at AAA Memphis this year, desmetlax12 said that he believes Valera is on the path for a MLB bench spot, even though he may never make a huge impact. Wiley similarly believes that Valera has nothing left to prove in the minors. 14NyquisT thinks it is just a matter of time before Valera gets to the majors and stays. He mentioned his switch-hitting ability and sound defense at all the various positions that Valera can play. Mudville thinks that Valera has hit his peak however, while CariocaCardinal thinks that Valera would have been ranked higher had he not been called up to the Cardinals roster in September. – Jeremy Byrd
Derek Shore (48): Coming off a season in which he saw his prospect status reinfused after hitting a robust .341 at Triple-A Memphis, Valera followed that up with perhaps an even stronger 2017 that included repeating as TCN’s Player of the Month in both July and August.
Valera, 25, has been in the Cardinals system for a long time, signing out of Venezuela in 2010. Despite only a steady rise, the switch-hitter proved himself at all stops along the way as a .300 hitter in the lower levels until reaching Double-A Springfield in 2015 where he struggled to a career-low .236 average in 105 games.
With bottom of the scale power and speed that didn’t play well on the basepaths, his offensive profile was always empty and his stock fell drastically after struggling against more advanced pitching.
Returning to the Texas League in 2016, Valera got off to a so-so start, hitting .258 in 178 at-bats, but it was his second half in Memphis that reopened eyes and led to the Cardinals adding him to the 40-man roster on November 9 of 2016.
That paid off as Valera went on to have a career year this past season, including career-highs in slugging percentage, doubles (22), and home runs (eight). More impressively, he maintained his high-contact ability with added power all while drawing 38 walks against 34 strikeouts in 424 at-bats.
“He finally realized he can swing harder and under control and not just try to hit the baseball,” Memphis hitting coach Mark Budaska said. “I was trying to get him to do that all of last year, but he would just hit it instead of trying to smash it.
“All of a sudden he got the feel of that using his bottom hand a little bit more and created some bat speed. He’s making contact out in front of the plate a little more and backspin it with some elevation, and he’s getting double results.
Thus, Valera showed increased punch at the dish, going from primarily a singles hitter to turning around on some doubles and the occasional home run.
“It was a really easy concept for him,” his manager Stubby Clapp said. “He just started swinging harder. He had the hand-eye coordination. He had a great control of the strike zone. He just had to trust himself and let it go a little bit more.
“He did, and he found out that he could drive the ball. Keep the outfielders honest, and they found out not to play him in so much.”
Scouts like Valera for his knack for contact and feel to make adjustments with two strikes. He projects to be a major-league average hitter.
His defensive profile is a question as he lacks the range and arm strength to play shortstop and is an average runner. According to two industry sources, Valera ultimately projects as an organizational utility player at best and a 25th man in the most optimistic view, playing with the motor of a longtime veteran all-star which does not suit that role.
Clapp liked the strides he made at second base, though.
“He made some strides at second base,” Clapp said. “He was tentative out there in the beginning. He worked hard on his glove-side, trying to stay low on some hard-hit balls. He was tentative on those balls. He worked hard at that.
“Tried to be useful over there at second base. He got himself there. Turns a decent double-play. The most important part is he can play anywhere in the outfield, too.”
Valera was set to play winter ball in Venezuela again but looks like he will sit out as he is dealing with an inflamed ligament in his thumb in his right hand.
All in all, Valera had an impressive 2017 and should be in the mix for a utility role in St. Louis next year.
Brian Walton (64): As our relative ratings indicate, compared the other voters, I continue to be far less bullish on Valera. Despite his very strong finish at Memphis and his first-ever MLB cameo in September, I don’t see his low career ceiling having been raised. While other prospects continue to join the system, Valera adds years of service as others pass him by.
As evidence, he dropped 10 places on each of the other two voters’ lists from last year to this, and 18 points in my personal rankings. That led to a fall of 11 spots on the overall list from 2017 to 2018 – certainly not the kind of trajectory you want to see.
In addition, as you may have noticed above, I dropped both Valera’s Scouting Grade and Risk from one year ago. His 2018 grade of 3.0 (from 3.5) means I assess his ceiling has been reached as an up and down player. The risk associated with that grade has been reduced from low to safe, meaning that I am highly confident of that assessment.
Having said all of that, I do not see Valera as being valueless. After all, he showcased his best tool, his hit tool, all summer long. To that end, I named him The Cardinal Nation’s Player of the Month for the entire Cardinals system for both July and August – a rare occurrence.
Yet, more than one talent evaluator with whom I spoke with over the last year expressed surprise that Valera was protected by the Cardinals last fall – because that meant a younger player with a much higher potential ceiling at a more premium position, Allen Cordoba, was left exposed to the Rule 5 Draft, and eventually lost by the organization.
Some of that may have been Monday morning quarterbacking, and Cordoba’s future remains unclear. But the fact is that after Valera’s eight years in the Cardinals system, it seems pretty obvious that he is who we thought he would be – a good player who probably isn’t quite good enough to secure an ongoing job as a major leaguer.
Depending on the roster gyrations ahead for the Cardinals this off-season, I would not be surprised if Valera’s hold on his 40-man spot remains tenuous. Current course and speed, he is not going to beat out Greg Garcia for the infield reserve spot in St. Louis next spring and if there was an opening, Aledmys Diaz appears to be firmly ahead in the pecking order.
If fact, with no further changes, even the Memphis 2018 infield is looking very crowded. My projected starter at short is Wilfredo Tovar, with Valera battling Alex Mejia for the job at second. If Patrick Wisdom returns at third, as hoped, Diaz could be a super-sub.
In this scenario, among those potentially left on the outside or returning to Springfield are veterans Jacob Wilson and Bruce Caldwell, not to mention possibly holding back promising younger middle infielders pushing up from Double-A in Tommy Edman and Darren Seferina.
Sure, Valera can play some outfield as well, but there look to be more players than spots to put them. At some point, if the older guys cannot progress, they have to either move aside or move on.
Our 2018 top 50 series continues
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