|Jesmuel Valentin, image- Jay Floyd
With the Phils this spring, Valentin posted a .366 batting average with six doubles and four RBI in 21 games.
A first round draft selection in 2012, he was the return in the deal that sent Roberto Hernandez to the Dodgers three summers ago.
Sticking around until the final day of the Grapefruit League schedule is a testament to the improvements the talented switch-hitter has made after spending the off-season playing under the tutelage of his dad, Jose Valentin, a veteran of 16 major league seasons, in the Roberto Clemente League in Puerto Rico. The elder Valentin is the manager of the Mayaguez Indios.
“I know what I’m capable of doing and I know that all that I did (in spring training) was not a surprise. I was more surprised that I did it on a little bit of a consistent basis," Valentin said in front of his locker at Lehigh Valley’s Coca-Cola Park last week. "That’s what I’m working on- just being more consistent every day, just being more consistent and try to minimize failure. And seeing that happen that means that I’m going the right way, on the right path. So, that’s what I worked for this off-season, trying to get all those results and I got them!"
Taking advantage of the chance to play regularly for the Phillies this spring, Valentin passed on the opportunity to play with the Puerto Rico team in the World Baseball Classic. His father was a coach for that club as well.
Valentin is slated to be the everyday second baseman for the Triple-A IronPigs this season, paired up as a double play combination with top Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford.
His manager with Lehigh Valley Dusty Wathan, whose father John was a big league manager, feels the familiarity with being around big leaguers during his youth, likely had a lot to do with Valentin’s comfort level and his ability to settle in quickly and produce during spring training.
Wathan expressed a great level of satisfaction with the production that Valentin had with the Phillies.
“He had a tremendous spring and I'm very proud of him,” Wathan said. “He handled himself well. That's what you need to do when you go into your first (big league) spring training, is handle yourself as a professional. You know, if you get a couple hits, great! But even if he wouldn't have gotten hits, the way he did his work, the way he played defense was outstanding.”
Defense has always been a big part of Valentin’s game.
Aware that media types and prospect reviewers may have impressions of him that are more aligned with a prototypical light-hitting middle infielder that notches more web gems than round trippers, Valentin hopes to take advantage of opportunities that will continue to prove them wrong.
“It’s one of those things that I never try to hear what people say or read those comments. I just keep working on what I’m doing because later on I know I’m going to have success,” Valentin stated.
The five-foot-nine 180-pounder is equipped to become a versatile big league utility man.
While he’s primarily been a second baseman in the pros, Valentin has played shortstop, third base, left field and right field, much like his father, who played all of those positions in the big leagues, but also dabbled in center field and once played first base.
Like most dedicated players, Valentin doesn’t care where he’s playing, as long as he’s out there, getting an opportunity to help his team.
“I want to win and if there’s any chance I get to help the team get in the win column I’m going to have that chance and that’s all I live for. I live for those special moments, those special opportunities,” Valentin asserted.
Here's hoping there are more opportunities and plenty of moments for Valentin at the top level of the sport.