What to expect in 2012, Sebastian Valle

I was thinking about the next player to write up, and Valle seemed like a great case. Always young for each league he’s played in, Valle had his best season in 2011 and performed very well in the pitcher friendly Florida State League, posting a line of .284/.312/.394, and that line may have been higher if he hadn’t worn down a bit in the hot summer sun over the last 6 weeks or so. Early in his career, Valle was considered an offensive first prospect whose future behind the dish was a bit uncertain. Over the last 2 seasons however, his athleticism and instincts have helped him improve tremendously defensively, and he now looks like no worse than an average defensive catcher with significant upside. He has a strong arm, and though he is still adding polish to his defensive game, all the tools are there. The question now is what is his offensive upside? Here is his career ledger

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32-33% caught stealing is solid enough, he cut down on his errors significantly, and the last piece is refining his ability to block pitches in the dirt. Offensively, his walk rate tanked and his K rate went up a tad, which means part of his batting average was definitely BABIP induced luck. Its important to remember the threshold for catchers in baseball. The average three slash line for all major league catchers in 2011 in the major leagues was .245/.313/.389. That’s putrid, obviously, and you only have to scan major league rosters to find guys who, if they played another position, would have been out of baseball years ago because they can’t hit their way out of a wet paper bag. Valle could struggle in AA, especially against quality offspeed stuff. The Phillies are probably anticipating this, and are fine with this, as long as he plays solid defense, which is going to be a requirement for him making it to the big leagues and contributing.

So, what do you expect from Valle in 2012 at Reading?

67 thoughts on “What to expect in 2012, Sebastian Valle

  1. I think he will struggle at first, but the smaller park ought to help him out…but he will stall out unless he can start recognizing some pitches, He MUST MUST MUST take more walks in AA to really advance. I’m optimistic, but I think he’ll have to spend 2 years @ Reading, good thing, becuase he’s young enough, remember wasn’t Ruiz 26 as a rookie?

  2. I really would like him to focus more on offense and be an average defensive catcher for the time being. The reason being if he gets to the Bigs in a reasonable amount of time he can learn from Ruiz, which I think will be the biggest help to him defensively he could get.

    That being said, I see a huge step back to start the year offensively, until he starts bringing his walk rate back up. But he’ll bounce back once the walk rate comes up and he’ll post a respectable .270/.310/.400 triple slash.

    1. I’d like to see a babip normalized .270 average with 10 HR’s offensively and a walk rate around 7-8%, and I’m with the above poster, I’d be content with 1 year of minimal improvement defensively if he can take a full step forward offensively.

  3. Ruiz was a more sophisticated hitter after he got to AA. Necessity? Better coaching? Light going on? That’s what we need from Valle. Players with real talent can often get much better in high minors, where the demands bring out the best in them and maybe they begin to smell the majors and take advice/coaching more seriously. Ruiz, Howard are examples. Also, age 22+ is when a person simply starts to grow up a bit more, not think he knows everything and is bulletproof by nature.

    I think he could become more selective, and if that happens, the improvement could be dramatic. Just some speculative and optimistic thinking, which is pretty much how I look at things in December.

  4. His offense has come along and should continue to keep up with the change to a higher level. Adaption to each level has been his short history but the best thing is that he is becoming better behind the plate including the calling of pitches which indicates his increasing understanding of the requirements of a better MLB catcher. Digging them out is a MUST to learn…well.

    Continuing at Reading in ’12 and ’13 at LV is likely to yield a better catcher for seasons to come, with Ruiz needing relief or replacement considering HIS age. Good timing.

    Two other catchers might catch our eye for future edging upward. ?? is the one from Texas drafter in ’10 and the other ?? we just drafted in ’11. (Names not recalled for now)

    In the ’12 draft the Phils SHOULD go for some early college catcher (among the 5 early picks we likely will have) and a younger one a bit later. Strengthening the position is called for.

  5. I suspect he will struggle to start the year but will have a better 2nd half.
    As others noted, I suspect the plan is to spend 2 years in Reading with a possible AAA promotion sometime the 2nd year depending on progress.
    Overall I expect a slight improvement over last year when the full year is complete.

  6. Have to say that I expect he will struggle significantly to the point where he ends up back in Clearwater. He won’t see strikes in AA until he shows some plate discipline and I think it will take him getting chewed up in Reading until the message gets through.

    That being said, he will still be young for either location and how he responds will tell a lot about his future ability.

  7. Two things.

    Obviously, the plate discipline is a concern. Unless he learns how to work counts, he’s never going to be more than a good hitting, back of the order guy.

    The other note is more nitpicking that observation. You mentioned that his performance was probably at least partially BABIP luck. I know you know this, but at lower levels, it isn’t necessarily “luck” when a guy has a .350, .375, or even .400 BABIP (I didn’t take the time to calculate Valle’s). It’s an indication that the batter can prey on under prepared pitching. Basically my quibble is that you call something luck that isn’t necessarily luck. Not a big deal since the end result is the same once you generate an MLE.

  8. I would not be surprised to see Valle struggle all season, given his poor plate discipline last season. I’d like to be proven wrong, but there’s really no need to for him to move that quickly, as I expect the Phillies to stick with Ruiz as long as he has the trust of the pitching staff. And I don’t think it would necessarily be the worst thing for him either, so long as he learns from it.

  9. The Phillies need to be careful and let him develop to his fullest in Reading this year, especially his bat. With two years in Reading he can develop and become age appropriate for AAA and not falter like Brown has. His D needs to remain average and steadily increase under the tutelage of Chooch.

    I do also agree that they need to build the entire position throughout the system in this draft. Several positions need to be built up such as up the middle, heck most of the infield.

  10. I can’t see Valle going back to Clearwater or spending two years in Reading. I see him hitting the big leagues in 2014. Ruiz only has a couple years left on his deal. I don’t see them resigning him as he will be 34 at the time. There are not too many 21 year olds in the minors with good plate discipline. People like Singleton are the exception. i’m hoping for .280 average 15 hrs, increasing his OBP, and working on calling a good game.

    1. I’m somewhat optimistic as well, but there are more 21 year olds with decent plate discipline than you realize. And I’d venture to say that the vast majority of 21 year olds who are real prospects have demonstrated more plate discipline than Valle.

      That said, he is a catcher after all, he has plenty of other positives, and it is likely his BB rate will tick up a bit as he gets older. Ruiz, for example, had horrendous BB rates in the minors, and he now has a BB rate over 10%.

      For 2012, I expect his BB rate and HR rate to improve a little, while his BA will fall a little. Hopefully his defensive skills will continue to improve. I would say 2015 is a more realistic eta, though he should at least get a call up in 2014.

      1. This sounds right. The nice thing with Valle is that there is no need to rush him and, having seen him play on TV, it appears he is a very impressive athlete and should only continue to improve. If he continues to flash power, improves his defense and slowly begins to improve his OBP, it will be a really big year for him.

  11. Valle’s raw stats might improve a bit considering he is moving from a tough hitting environment to a good one. Plate discipline is certainly a concern though. Pitchers in AA start becoming advanced and can really eat up undisciplined hitters.

    I see Valle’s upside as Benito Santiago, or possibly Lance Parrish. Downside is Miguel Olivo. In MLB a catcher with a .279 OBP can play 1000 games if he plays the position and hits with power.

  12. I will be looking for Valle to practice better pitch selection during the year. He almost always starts very well; then tails off to average in his hitting. He has shown that he can study and learn to play his defensive catcher role. I will look for him to maintain and improve on his defensive skills.
    He has been known to hit a few out in the Winter League against a lot of off-speed pitchers. I’ll be happy if I see his on-base percentage improve to .350 by the end of the year. I think he will hit 20 home runs in AA.

    1. Puddnhead: If Valle’s OBP EVER gets to .350, he could well be in an all-star game that year. .350 from him is very optimistic. I’d be happy with .325-.330 for starters. Just being realistic. I’m with you on hoping for it. If he still showed the power, that would make him one of the top few catching prospects.

  13. As always with catchers, his defense (includinging the handling of a pitching staff) will be priority number 1. He should hit a few homers in Reading’s ballpark.

  14. I think we’ll definitely see an increase in HRs given his new home park. But hit triple slash will take a hit, especially average and OBP. I’m expecting he ends the year with an OBP in the .280 range and will repeat Reading, which isn’t such a bad thing. As long as his defense keeps being positive and he shows power I’ll be satisfied with his season as long as his on-base numbers aren’t totally putrid.

  15. When you compare Valle to Ruiz, have to remember that Chooch did not start catching until he was 21 in the GCL and caught in AAA thru age 26…so defensively I would think Valle has a leg up at this stage.

  16. If I had to guess the power will increase next year while the lack of patience will cause his average to drop. .255 with 15 HR but only 20 BB. That is OK though any chance of him being a major league starter will probably depend on him improving his pitch selection. With more power he will get pitched around more, so he will have an opportunity to improve his approach.

  17. 260 with 15 homers is pretty realistic for him although I think his average could actually be higher. I’m not prepared to say that AA pitching is all that good. I think Valle will see plenty of fastballs to hit and in those smallish parks, balls go out. Without the hot Florida sun, he should stay stronger longer. I really want to see him continue to grow as a catcher and with Wathan and several of the pitchers all moving up with him, there will be an instant comport for him that should benefit him. Btw, Rupp is catching in CWater, Valle isn’t going backwards. I’m really intrigued to see how Rupp does next year after his strong 2nd half.

  18. .265/.300/.380 with 8-12 homeruns and continued improvement behind the dish. All this will earn him a ticket to Triple A in ’13.

    1. Maybe I was a little to conservative on the Slugging…how about .265/.300/.420? I mean, his slugging has got to go up with the move to Reading, right? Just like when everyone was saying that Feliz would hit that many more homeruns coming from PacBell (or whatever it is called these days) to the Cit.

      1. Valle, hopefully, isn’t on the downside of his career like Feliz was. But you never know until things play out.

  19. I really have to disagree with this walk rate business when it comes to discussing Valle and his path to the big leagues. Let’s face facts. We’re not talking about a lead off hitter and at this point we’re not talking about a middle of the order offensive player.

    To know Valle you need to do some digging beyond the numbers and the box scores. The kid has great make-up. He’s a little JROLL a little Yadier so if he can improve defensively and continue to hit .250+ you will love having this kid on your team.

    1. What does a high BB% indicate? Long pitch counts, keener eye, less Ks, better hit to pitch….what puzzles me however that BA stats indicate MLB players have higher batting averages who swing early in the count….and mostly first/second pitch. How can this be?

      1. Pitchers tend to throw more fastballs early in the count so aggressive hitters often benefit from swinging early.

        1. ok…..but that goes in the face of those who have proposed here that the BB rates are a considerably undervalued equation to the OBS stat.

      2. Given that it is impossible to strike out with less than two strikes, batting averages are necessarily higher when the batter swings early in the count. For instance, you can’t make an out on a 1-1 count by swinging and missing, as you would on a 2-2 count. That skews your batting average.

        That same issue clouds your second point, specifically regarding BA on the first and second pitch. A batter can NEVER strike out on the first and second pitch, so that takes away a significant portion of the way to make an out on those pitches, hence skewing the BA.numbers.

        1. Will…given what you say is correct….then why the posters who were critical of Valle’s offensive BA performance last year, based on the fact he drew far too few BBs!

          1. I don’t think you understand… BA by count is defined by outcomes in a certain count. There is no outcome on a swing and miss on a 1-1 count. However a swing and miss on a 2-2 count is an out. This skews BA on 1-1 counts to be necessarily higher because it is almost a direct reflection of babip

            1. That is to say, the stats you reference, while factually true, do not provide any insight to the value of working a count.

          2. I’m looking at this debate – and realize that it’s just hard to clearly explain the concept here in a really clear way to someone who doesn’t have a good intuitive grasp of statistics. Not that some of the responses aren’t good – and correct – this is probably one of the areas where the statistical evidence is most overwelmingly correct – that link posted by Alan is devestating evidence against those who undervalue plate discipline generally and BB% specifically.

            Anon, look at it this way. Someone who swings on a one strike count has a decent chance to get a hit – but if he gets a strike, which he will MOST of the time, his chance of getting a hit decreases immensely. In order to evaluate the effectivenes of the “strategy” of “agressive” hitting, you can’t ignore the swings and misses.

            1. Larry for the millionth time please check averages on 0-1 counts. I know that is easy to ignore if you are using stats to make some point. Some players even hit better on 0-1 than 0-0. Two strikes if the turning point not one.

            2. Ok…think I am getting the concept. So if you compare the offensive stats from 2011 for Dom Brown vs Seb Valle…upfront it would appear to be overwhemingly in Valle’s favor, however when you look to long term effectiveness, based on recent past performances equatiing to future results, it skews favorably more towards Brown. Is that a correct assumption?

      3. Hitters early in the count have an option of whether or not to swing. Thus, they can swing at a hittable pitch and lay off a tough pitch. With two strikes, a hitter must swing at a strike whether it is in his wheelhouse or it nicks the corner.

  20. keep hearing he doesnt walk enough. look up pittsburg catcher manny sandguillen. most walks he had was 48 one season. most years he average 20 walks, yet was a 296 life time hitter.

    1. If Valle ends up being a .296 hitter, that’s great and he doesn’t need to walk as much to have a nice OBP. But Sanguillen averaged 37 strikeouts per season over his major league career. Valle struck out 84 times last year in hi-A. So Valle doesn’t put the ball in play the same way Sanguillen did, making him unlikely to be comparable in that way.

    2. There’s really so much you can say about the wrongness of this comparison – the single best point is that low BB rates are acceptable when you have a contact hitter – like Sanguillen – and not like Valle. That’s true for two reasons – the first is that a contact hitter will almost always have a higher BA, the second is that it’s harder for a pitcher to exploit the lack of strike zone judgment by pitching slop (because the contact hitter can still hit the slop). The only (very few) examples of a player with very low BB rates who had any real major league success were contact hitters with low K rates. I think it’s literally true that there are no exceptions.

      But there’s much, much more than that. Start with Sanguillen being an outlier – for every guy like him who succeeded with an absurdly low BB rate, there are literally thousands of players who failed with similar BB rates. Add to that the fact that it was a different game 40 years ago – K rates and BB rates were both much lower.

      The bottom line is that, with a BB rate similar to Valle’s rate last year, his chance of anything more than a back up role in the majors AT BEST is zero. But his BB rates prior to last year, though low, are probably marginally acceptable & could support a career as a regular. But obviously the more he can improve his BB rate, the better chance for such a career.

      And there’s plenty of reason to beleive he can improve his BB rate, so I remain optimistic about him.

      1. “Turning the line up over” is not to be forgotten also . In the end the total team stats and how the batter contributes is . Eg Wilson Valdez was on base 86 times last year. Erase three CSBs and the incredible number of DP (which I can find Help) and his OBP is even more dismal

      2. On his current trajectory, Valle’s highest projected comparison on the offensive side would be someone like Benito Santiago. If he starts drawing more walks or really starts to flash big time power (I actually think this is possible), that could change. Of course, more likely than not he will not end up being as good as Santiago who was a pretty decent, albeit inconsistent, player.

  21. It is not the walk rate per se that could be the problem. If he is a 725 OPS major league catcher with a 300 OBP I would take that. The problem with low walk rates in the lower minors is that the pitchers get better in the upper levels and will exploit that by not throwing strikes. A low walk rate in the lower minors can translate to really low batting averages if he does not improve his pitch recognition.

  22. BB rate is important for prospects because it denotes an advanced plate approach. Also, more advanced pitchers will take advantage of a free swinger and simply throw balls early in the count.

    Valle will need to adjust his approach to continue to succeed in the upper minors.

  23. Interesting…..saw this on MLBTR:

    •The Phillies have discussed ways of re-obtaining Travis d’Arnaud, the Double-A catcher who arrived with Drabek in the 2009 Roy Halladay trade. As Elliott points out, the Blue Jays would need a ton to part with this year’s Eastern League MVP.

  24. Valle – let’s see, I’m guessing we trade him at the dead-line to plug whatever hole is deemed to be the most glaring.

    As to how he plays on the field – the last several years he’s played winter ball which leads me to believe he tires as the season progresses. I think a winter off will really help his power numbers 15-20 hrs, but his avg. probably won’t be higher than .265. The Reading park, combined with the winter off will drive the ISO way up.

  25. so if the phillies offer say brown valle and may for d’naud toronto wouldnt listen, silly to think a double a catcher is untouchable. on another subject, my favorite player is out there for trade if we blow away the team, pirates mc clutchen, wonder what it would take, would a bastado, worley, brown, valle, may be enough or not. trying to come up with a package to tempt pittsburg?

  26. way too much for us to give up. That’s our whole future pretty much. Give me a good FA instead and save the prospects.

  27. I’d like to see Valle leave the Mexican Winter League and get on a workout regimen like Galvis. He’s had a month or two at home but it’s time to get ready for more grueling seasons ahead. He won’t be playng in the Majors in the next two years but he needs to get bigger, stronger and more skilled in both offense and defense. I don’t know if Ruiz works out in the states in the offseason but if he does, Valle should get as close to him as he can. He’s on the right track. He’ll hit a rough spot this year but remember his age and position. Having Dusty Wathan as his manager can’t hurt. A former catcher himself with an extensive minor league career. He knows what it will take to make it to the show.

  28. I want to comment on Nowheels comment above, specifically the difference between 0-0 and 0-1. Hitters in the National League as a whole hit .253/.319/.391. OPS of .710. Look at what happens when a hitter falls behind 0-1. Hitters at that point plummet to an OPS of .597. Some hitters might have better averages on 0-1, but they’re anomalies. In the link I posted above, there are over 40,000 plate appearances to support the data. Now two strikes, that is an even more substantial drop. But one strike is important too.

    And if there was ever a stat to support plate discipline, check out the last lines. The difference between being ahead and behind in the count is a staggering 400 points of OPS.

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