Valaika Making Case for Call-up

Valaika Making Case for Call-up

Chris Valaika is a seven-year veteran of the Reds minor league system. He's gotten some action the majors over the past couple of seasons before undergoing ACL surgery last September. His 2012 season started out slowly at Louisville with another stint on the DL from the same knee. Now his bat is getting hot in time for an expansion call-up

Louisville fell behind when they allowed three runs in the fourth inning before losing at home to Charlotte by a score of 3-1. Offensively Chris Valaika led a slow night by going 2-3 with a walk and scoring their only run. On the mound Pedro Villarreal took the loss despite turning in a quality start, allowing three runs (two earned) on three hits in six innings. Three Bats relievers threw one scoreless inning each.

It's been a long year for the minor league veteran Valaika but now his bat is heating up to finish the season. His action was cut short last year by surgery to repair a torn ACL. That same knee put him on the DL again this past June. He's now gone 11-33 in his last ten games to raise his average to .265. The infielder has gotten three call-ups the past couple of years and is building a case for anther stint with the Reds after roster expansion next month. He has a batting average of .270 in 67 career plate appearances at the major league level.

Valaika came into the Reds organization out of the University of California from a third round selection in the 2006 draft. He immediately commenced ascending up the ladder and hit over .290 at every level along the way until he arrived at Louisville in 2009. In his second full season with the Bats in 2010 he hit .304 which earned him his first major league action. Now the 26 year-old is in his fourth AAA season and is competing for playing time with younger prospects who were promoted from Pensacola this season. He's still rated in many top-25 lists of Reds prospects but his status is falling.

Along the way Valaika went through a position change from shortstop to second base. At the plate he has a very aggressive approach and has walked in only around 5% of around 3,000 plate appearances in seven minor league seasons. That wasn't as bad when he was showing some power at lower levels, but it became more noticeable since his slugging percentage slipped below .400 after reaching AAA. His career AAA batting average of .263 looks a lot worse when considering his on-base percentage is less than .300.

On defense Valaika has a fielding percentage of .964 in almost 700 minor league games and had been charged with 107 errors which if a frequency of around one every 6.5 games. That rate was reduced after his move to second base where he averages over nine games per miscue. Obviously he has aspirations of continuing his career in the majors, but now it appears that if he does get another chance it will be as a utility infielder. He still projects to hit well enough for a reserve role. His arm would allow him to play some at third and he could fill in at short on occasions.

Right now on Valaika's agenda is getting another shot. That did not appear likely until recently. Every team will be able to increase their roster up to fifteen additional players after the end of the month. A couple of reserves currently on their active roster are a bit long in the tooth compared to MLB standards and manager Dusty Baker may want to use one of the added spots for an infielder with some MLB experience. Valaika's performance recently suggests his knee is sound and if he continues his hitting streak it could be rewarded by more time in a Reds uniform in September.

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