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 Minor League News & Autograph Blog Home

Top Prospect Alert - Jose Valverde

By Schuyler Dombroske

DOB: 7/24/79, Age: 22, Height: 6’4’’, Weight: 220, Bats: R, Throws: R. Acquired: D-Backs - Signed out of the Dominican Republic on 1/31/97. 2000 Stats (Missoula - Rookie) 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 12 IP, 3 H, 4 BB, 24 K; (South Bend - Low-A) 0-5, 5.40 ERA, 32 IP, 31 H, 25 BB, 39 K. 2001 Stats: (El Paso - AA) 2-2, 13 SV, 3.92 ERA, 41 IP, 36 H, 1 HR, 27 BB, 72 K.

          Relief pitching prospects: a phrase that’s close to an oxymoron, especially in an organization with Matt Mantei, Bret Prinz, and Byung-Hyun Kim already manning the big-league pen. Nevertheless, Jose Valverde has a big-league quality arm. He throws a 95-98 mph fastball to go along with a slider and a splitter that are both plus pitches. Last season, Valverde pitched in one of the more extreme hitters’ parks in the minors, and more than held his own. The obvious statistical highlight is the 15.8 strikeouts per nine innings, but I’m also impressed with his ability to keep the ball down: allowing only one home run in 41 innings. The hits per nine are a little higher than they should be for his level of “stuff”, but that could be attributed to the park. More worrisome would be the control issue: just under 6 walks per nine innings. Valverde needs to harness his fastball a bit, perhaps throwing it more in the 95-96 range until he needs a little extra, in order to be ready for the majors. His slider/fastball combo make him extremely difficult on righties, and the splitter acts as an equalizer against portsiders, so there isn’t much to work on as far as his repertoire. When the control comes, Valverde should be the equal of Prinz, Kim, and Mantei, which should be enough to lock down most close contests for the D-Backs.

          I’m in agreement with Mark Jerkatis in thinking that Arizona would be best served trying to convert Valverde into a starter. Their potential starting rotation is currently 29, 31, 31, 35, 36, and 38, and they don’t have any young pitchers that I would consider to be a sure thing approaching. In fact, the only pitchers that won’t be 30 by the end of April on their roster are the aforementioned relief trio. Those facts, coupled with the assumption that there won’t be enough important innings to go around for four good right-handed relievers, bring me to that opinion. Valverde and Kim would seem to be the most convertible of the four, and Kim was closing games (or trying to, as we all remember) at the end of 2001, so Valverde would seem to be the logical choice. Either way, I think Jose will open up 2002 in another tough environment for pitching, the PCL, with a good chance to be in Phoenix sometime during the season. Valverde reminds me a bit of Vladimir Nunez of the Marlins (formerly the D-Backs), albeit with a slightly stronger arm. Nunez also has been a swingman in his brief career, so there isn’t any reason why Valverde couldn’t follow the same course.


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