Jordany Valdespin got a late and usual start to his career, but that hasn’t prevented him from from becoming a top prospect. As most Latin American prospects sign and get their career underway at 16-years-old Valdespin did not until he was 19. He signed in June of 2007 for an unknown amount, which was probably next to nothing, considering the Mets reasoning for signing him was they needed to fill a roster spot for their team in the Dominican Summer League. It is looking like a brilliant move right now. Valdespin showed an advanced approach at the plate in the DSL hitting .245/.369/.338 with a 24:26 BB:K ratio. He didn’t show much power, but displayed decent speed that caught the eye of some. He played almost exclusively at second base (two games in the outfield) and played great defensively with a .979 fielding percentage and a good range factor.
The Mets liked Valdespin enough to bring him stateside in 2008 and put him on the GCL Mets, where he first really made a name for himself. Valdespin barely walked at all, but displayed a great ability to put the ball in play, hit for a higher average, and exhibited some power. His .289/.319/.440 line was a big improvement and he even saw some time at shortstop for the first time.
2009 was Valdespin’s first taste of full-season ball and it turned out to be a doozy of a season. Valdespin opened the year on the bench behind Josh Satin at second and Wilmer Flores at short, but he still got decent playing time and posted great numbers (finished the year .322/.366/.480 in Savannah). At times, however, he seemed to go disappearing and then got demoted with the reasoning being disciplinary action handed down by Tony Bernazard and the Mets front office. They never went into details of exactly why Valdespin was punished, but it sent up red flags about his make up. Mike Newman of Scouting the Sally came away less than impressed with Valdespin during his time with the Gants. On the field it was still another positive year for Valdespin, but the tension he created with the front office made it look like he would always be on the outside looking in.
Despite all of the disciplinary problems and broken bridges, Valdespin opened 2010 with St. Lucie and once again hit. His .289 average was good and while a .148 ISO is right around the league average, coming from a middle infield in the FSL it was a plus and showed once again why people were intrigued by Jordany’s bat. He found a way to lower his extremely low walk rate, but on the positive side struckout less than he had in ’09. He opened the year playing shortstop, but moved back to second to accomodate Flores after his promotion from Savannah. He was awful at short anyway with a .889 fielding percentage and poor range factor so the move to second looked like it was necessary. He got a callup to Binghamton towards the end of the year where he struggled to get going. His baserunning skills were the most disappointing stat of the year. For someone who was supposed to have above-average speed he was successful just 17 times in 29 attempts (59%), which doesn’t cut it from a top of the order threat. While was fast, it was apparent his skills were still raw despite being 22-years-old already. He went to the Arizona Fall League at the end of the year and posted an exceptional .355/.388/.461. He got his walk rate back to about his career average of 5% (still not good) and hit the cover off the all. The Mets saw enough to add him to the 40-man roster to keep him safe from the Rule V Draft.
2011 has been a complete revelation for Valdespin. He appeared in 10 games in spring training and really stood out with the bat hitting .333/.375/.733. He played second base and has a showed that pop with a double, triple, and homerun in 15 at-bats. The opening to his season in Binghamton wasn’t quiet as pleasant. He struggled out of the gate in April and while he got right back to his career numbers in May, he resorted back to his old ways in the bad sense too. He was pulled from the game and benched on June 2nd by Wally Backman for a lack of effort, but this very well could have been the turning point of his season and even career. In his first at-bat back from the benching on June 7th he hit a pinch hit homerun. It was right after this that Valdespin took off and has posted a .353/.386/.564 line since then over 34 games, with 8 of his 10 homeruns on the season coming at this time. It was shortly before this that the Mets moved Valdespin back to shortstop full-time. Baseball America believes this might have been what turned his season around. While his offensive numbers have been on another planet since the move, he has been a big liability in the field. He has committed 20 errors in 249 chances (.920%), although on the positive side his range factor isn’t that bad. And while he has had a bad recent stretch getting caught stealing four times in the last eight games, he has improved with his base stealing skills and has been successful 73% of the time.
Valdespin’s turnaround has been a shot in the arm for the Mets farm system and for the time being it looks like he has refined his raw tools to become a real ball player and not just an athlete. His walk rate is still worrisome, but he is striking out just 16.9% of the time. While they are slightly worse, they are not they far off from the BB% and K% of Jose Reyes who I think we can agree is one of the best top of the order threats in baseball. If Valdespin keeps producing like he has over this recent stretch there is every reason to believe he can be a viable replacement for Reyes, if he overcomes his maturity issues, God forbid Reyes sign elsewhere this off-season. Valdespin is no guarantee by any means and he still has a lot of work to do to become an MLB regular, but he has that kind of upside with the downside being a utility middle infielder who can come off the bench and provide a spark on the basepaths or at the plate.