The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com Player Profile
(including links to full 2012 and career stats)
Home: Montelban, Venezuela
Selected 2012 stats
CariocaCardinal (18): Valera is possibly one of the most underrated Cardinal prospects. I say that given the lack of attention given to a player who has climbed rapidly through the system, posses a strong hit tool (over .300 in each of his minor league seasons), is considered plus defensively, and been mentioned as one of the fastest players in all of the minor leagues.
So why is he not rated higher? Some question his ability to take a walk but given his low strikeout totals as well this is probably not a great concern. There are questions about his ability to play shortstop at higher levels but a solid second baseman is also a valuable commodity. And he apparently hasn't figured out how to use his speed to its full advantage given he was only 10 for 16 in stolen bases in 2012. Despite those shortcomings, I fully expect Valera to emerge as a consensus top 10 system prospect next year.
A logical next stop for Valera would be Peoria but with three years of short season ball under his belt (two in the United States), I wound not be surprised to see him start 2013 in Palm Beach with a possible move to Double-A Springfield by the end of the year.
Message board community (16): Checking in at #16 in the community rankings is keystoner Valera. The second-sack speed demon had a deceptively outstanding season as a teenager in the New York-Penn League. The 5-foot-11, 160 pound Venezuelan posted a superior slash line of .316/.359/.418 in a league in which the average OPS was a paltry .663.
To put that hitting performance into perspective relative to Valera's age, he was .001 away from having the best OPS for a teen in his league. Add to that his solid 18/27 BB/K ratio, and you're talking about a potential Placido Polanco bat in the making.
Defense? The reports are generally positive, and the stats back it up. He's fast, so could Valera convert to shortstop? Not judging by his limited pro performance, wherein he has registered 14 errors in just 39 games. So, he has to hit, because he's surely a second baseman. I think he will.
Come 2014, I believe Valera will be a valuable trade chip - assuming Kolten Wong has established himself at the major league level. - BobReed
Brian Walton (24): I saw Valera play multiple times this year and perhaps I am still not giving him his full due by ranking him at number 24. While there were no gaping holes in his game that were obvious to me, I also did not walk away having been wowed by any one part of it.
There is still time for the 160-pounder to put on muscle mass, but Valera is thin enough that he almost looks frail to me. As such, I wonder how he will deal with the longer grind of full-season ball and specifically, if he could be overpowered by better pitching up the line. In the here and now, there is no doubt he performed at a high level in 2012, but I'd like to see more power develop from his bat.
In winter ball back home in Venezuela, Valera has been competing in the Parallel League, the lower level of competition. He continues to do what he does best - put the bat on the ball. Yet, his .402 BABIP there coming off a .344 BABIP at Batavia this season creates pause.
This does not mean that I am down on Valera, but I have an eye on the competition as well as the future. With the depth across the entire system improving, it is increasingly more difficult to crack the top 20. In fact, other than a pair of top 2012 draftees, no short-season player other than Valera placed in our 2013 top 20. At his position, Valera is third-ranked in the system, after Kolten Wong and Starlin Rodriguez and fourth if you also count Greg Garcia.
Making the considerable jump from number 39 on our overall list last year to number 19 currently seems about right for Valera for now. We should learn a lot more about his future potential as he progresses into full-season ball in 2013.
Our 2013 top 40 countdown continues: To see the list of top Cardinals prospects announced to date and remaining article schedule, click here. You can also read each of the voters' philosophies in making their selections.
The Cardinal Nation subscribers: Check out Brian Walton's exclusive interview with Valera from this summer.
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