Valdespin Playing Right Field During Winter Ball, What It Means For The Mets

Adam Rubin of ESPN tweeted yesterday that Jordany Valdespin would be playing right field in the Dominican Winter League. This went against what most believed – that Valdespin would be playing second base this winter. I recently did an end of the year review for Valdespin on another Mets website, so this is the perfect time for me to share my perspective on what this means for the Mets in 2013.

My Thoughts on Valdespin

Valdespin is easily the Mets most athletic player right now. When you factor in Valdespin’s athleticism, the notion that the transition from the middle-infield to the outfield is usually a much easier transition than trying to transition to the outfield from other positions on the diamond, and the fact that the Mets are in dire need of outfielders, it seems like a no-brainer that Valdespin would continue to be transitioned to the outfield. The minute I heard the news, I started thinking that if Valdespin is playing right field during winter ball, it must mean that the Mets are committed to Daniel Murphy as their second baseman of the future.

Transitioning Valdespin to the outfield seems like the exact thing the Mets should do, if they are truly intent on building from within, and sticking with the moneyball philosophy. The issue with Valdespin is that he isn’t the prototypical moneyball type player. He doesn’t get on base a lot. In fact, during his 2012 campaign, he had just as many strike outs as he had hits. His on-base percentage is awful. With his speed, his primary goal should be getting on base, but he only drew ten walks in 2012. That being said, he showed some nice power (broke the team’s pinch hit homerun record), and ability to get some clutch hits. His athleticism and pop had fans drooling in 2012.

Is Valdespin in the outfield the right move?

As an everyday player, Valdespin could have a 20/30 season in his sleep. He has tons of potential if he could be more patient at the plate. He is aggressive to a fault. In that respect, he reminds me a lot of Jose Reyes when he was first breaking into the big leagues. Once Reyes started working the count and getting on base more, he was a much more effective player. The same can be said for Valdespin. During winter ball, the goal should be to get Valdespin to take more pitches, and work the count in his favor. The Mets already have gone on record as saying that will be the team’s offensive philosophy going forward, so Valdespin will have to “buy in” if he wants to have significant playing time.

Transitioning Valdespin to the outfield is absolutely the right move. His speed and athleticism make a perfect fit for an outfield position. He has shown enough flashes in 2012 to think that he could be a major contributor to the Mets in 2013. Don’t be surprised if Valdespin eventually wins a starting job at some point either. I also like the move because it frees up the Mets to try and move Ike Davis, which has been a hot topic since early September. Valdespin is a much better option to play a corner outfield position than Lucas Duda, who then could move to his natural position of first base.

The Mets have already said that they do not expect to go after any free-agents to fill in their outfield this off-season. That could mean one of two things – they either make a trade to fill some of those gaps, or they fill the gaps from within the organization. Having Valdespin transition to the outfield only strengthens the Mets position to do both of those things. The importance of Valdespin making this transition should not underestimated by fans who want to see Valdespin take over at second base.

My Valdespin Prediction

Valdespin wins the right field job out of spring training. He has a confidence level that I love to see in players, and I think the Mets will have a very solid player at their disposal if they can get him to buy into the offensive philosophy. When it’s all said and done, he may be their best option for right field next year – partly due to the fact that he may be one of the only options when it is all said and done. I would love to see what he could do if he worked the counts into his favor a little more, and got a chance to play everyday at the big league level. Worst case scenario, he will have a similar role as he did in 2012, and the Mets will have a very good bat coming off the bench and a solid fourth outfielder. The problem is the Mets already have enough of those.

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