John McGeehan and I will be presenting a series of player previews, one each day for each player on the Tigers' 40-man roster, as we count down the days to opening day. We'll be alternating pitchers and position players, with a view of how each player fits into the Tigers' plans for the 2014 season.
Jose Valdez is a 24-year-old right-handed pitcher who was added to the 40-man roster in November to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. Valdez was signed as an international free agent in 2009 out of the Dominican Republic and assigned to the Dominican Summer League. He spent three seasons pitching out of the bullpen, most often as a closer.
Valdez came stateside to the Gulf Coast Rookie League in 2012, where he posted an ERA of 0.82, but walked over six batters per nine innings. He has compiled a nifty 2.84 ERA in 134 appearances in the Tiger organization. This includes a very steady 2.73 ERA in 2013 in Class-A West Michigan, and a 2.74 ERA when he was promoted to Advanced-A Lakeland in mid season.
His stat chart shows that he doesn't give up a lot of hits, and seldom gives up a home run, just one in the past four seasons, but he still has issues with his walk rate that he will have to sort out if he is to advance to the major leagues.
Key to success
Like so many other pitchers in the Tiger organization, including some on the major league team, Valdez is a high strikeout pitcher with command issues. A walks-per-nine-innings ratio north of 5.0 is unsustainable. With solid K numbers and minuscule home runs allowed, he can get away with putting some runners on, but he'll need to improve his command somewhat to make the big bucks.
Valdez racked up more saves than any other pitcher in the Tigers organization in 2013, with 33 saves between West Michigan and Lakeland.
Valdez will be 24 on March 1. He isn't likely to see any time in Detroit this season with so many others either signed to major league contracts or out of options, and only seven bullpen spots available. He'll pick up the season where he left off, probably at Advanced-A Lakeland, with Melvin Mercedes closing at Erie, and go from there. He is a prospect to keep an eye on for future reference.
Note: Jordan is providing comprehensive scouting reports on each of the Tigers' top 30 prospects in a separate series.