|Jesmuel Valentin, image- Jay Floyd|
Last year in spring training with the big league team Valentin proved he could contribute and earned consideration at making the Phillies opening day roster. His 2017 was cut short at the Triple-A level due to an injury in May, so he wasn't healthy for a call up during the season. But now, fully healthy and on the diamond in the Roberto Clemente League (the Puerto Rico Winter League), Valentin is hopeful he'll get another shot at his big league dream this year.
Selected as the 51st overall draft pick in 2012, Valentin was quickly a well-hyped prospect in the Los Angeles Dodgers system. Upon signing his initial professional contract fresh out of high school, the switch-hitter debuted in the rookie level Arizona League, posting a .211 average while launching two homers and driving in 18 runs in 43 games.
In 2013 the Puerto Rico native began the season in the rookie level Pioneer League, where he batted .284 with four homers and 24 RBI in 62 games. A promotion to the Class A Great Lakes team followed and, as a 19-year-old, he struggled a bit, batting .212 with six doubles, a triple and five RBI in 33 games.
The following season, Valentin repeated Class A and proved ready for the challenge. In 108 games for the Loons, he batted .280 with seven home runs and 47 RBI in 108 contests, making himself a desirable commodity to the Dodgers’ potential trade partners. After joining the Phillies’ organization in August as part of the Roberto Hernandez trade, Valentin was assigned to Class A Advanced Clearwater where he recorded a .205 average in 12 games.
Following the 2014 season, Valentin made headlines as he was suspended by the Phils organization following a domestic violence arrest. Charges were eventually dropped, according to Valentin, and he would return to action.
In 2015 as a member of the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers, Valentin would tally a .273 average with a homer and 14 RBI in 31 games.
In 2016, in 89 games with Double-A Reading, Valentin posted a .276 batting average with five home runs and 38 RBI. In July he was promoted to Triple-A Lehigh where he sported a .248 average with four homers and 14 RBI in 36 games.
Last year, in 21 Grapefruit League games, Valentin tallied a .366 batting average with six doubles and four RBI. He was the last man cut from big league camp.
|Valentin talking with me, image- Cheryl Pursell|
Valentin is the son of former Major League infielder Jose Valentin.
Growing up around the game, Jesmuel cited to me in a 2016 interview that he grew close to Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar in 2003 when he was teammates with Jose on the White Sox. Jesmuel would watch the Puerto Rican legend closely to learn as much as possible and the two bonded.
Defensively, the 23-year-old is strong with turning two in the middle and has very good range. His arm may be best suited for second base, where he plays primarily. With some versatility under his belt, Valentin has manned shortstop in 108 professional games while covering the hot corner at third base in 14 games and taking on the outfield in 15 games.
Speed is not a big factor for Valentin’s game, so he won’t be stealing many bases (49 steals in 75 pro attempts, a 65% success rate), but he is a smart and aggressive ball player who can take an extra base in the right situation and not make mental errors in key spots.
Valentin displays patience at the plate and can draw walks, notching a .348 on-base percentage for his affiliated pro career to date. He can be a nice table setter for his teammates.
Look for him back in big league spring training this year making his presence known and competing for a spot as a backup infielder.