Valaika Making Case for Call-up
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.
Other News from the Farm:
Penasacola scored three in the ninth and held on for a 8-5 2 win at Huntsville. Billy Hamilton, Josh Fellhauer, Ryan LaMarre, Bryson Smith, and David Vidal all had two hits for the Wahoos including a home run by Vidal. Chad Rogers got his first start since a promotion from Bakersfield and allowed one run on seven hits in five innings to get the win. Chris Manno got the final two outs for his first save.
Billy Hamilton Theft Watch:
Hamilton's stolen base rate had slowed down since his promotion to AA but he added three more last night. He led off the game with a single and advanced to third on two stolen bases during the following at-bat. He singled again in the fourth and stole second. He walked in the ninth and advanced to third on a single by the next hitter. He now has 122 SB in 104 games.
Bakersfield scored in five different innings in a 5-1 win at Modesto. Theo Bowe had three hits to raise his average to .343 with the Blaze. Ryan Wright celebrated his high-A debut after a promotion from Dayton with two hits and an RBI. Devin Lohman and Dominic D'Anna also added two hits each. Tanner Robles had a strong outing wher he allowed only one run on three hits in five innings to get the win and lower his Bakersfield ERA to 1.83 in six starts. Three relievers combined for four scoreless innings.
Dayton took an early lead and cruised to a 5-1 home win over Lansing. Juan Perez had two hits while Sammy Diaz went 1-2 with two walks and scored twice. Stalin Gerson got the win by throwing six shutout innings with four hits and four strikeouts. Carlos Gonzalez allowed an unearned run over the final three innings for the save.
Billings outlasted the Brewers in a 6-4 win at Helena. Matt Lentz had three hits including a home run for the Mustangs. Beau Amaral, Zachary Vincej, and Seth Mejias-Brean added two hits each. Their go-ahead run came from a home run by Carlos Sanchez in the fourth inning. Andrew Cisco got his first win when he allowed three runs on six hits in five innings without a walk.
The AZL Reds took a two-run lead then they scored four in the second and then were victims of an onslaught before the visiting AZL Brewers won 15-5. Brent Peterson, Wilfrel Estevez, and Jonathan Reynoso had two hits each for the Reds. Luke Moran allowed five runs (four earned) in three innings for the loss.
The DSL Reds lost 7-6 at home at home to the visiting DSL Orioles. They tied the game with two runs in the bottom of the ninth and then again with one in the tenth before losing in the next inning. Ronald Bueno had three hits and a walk for the Reds and Ariel Baez added two more hits. Jairo Martinez allowed the game winner for the loss.
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