Wilson Valdez seemingly came out of nowhere in 2010 to play 111 games at three different infield positions and even get some Philadelphia Phillies fans to dub him the team’s MVP for the season.
That’s about the most outrageous claim I’ve ever heard in my life. Valdez isn’t a bad utility infielder, but he’s a utility infielder nonetheless. He hit .258/.306/.360 in 363 plate appearances in 2010 and followed that up with a slightly worse performance in 2011 at .249/.294/.341.
Valdez can play second base, third base, or shortstop, and the Phillies even tried him at center field a little back in spring training. He even pitched in a game, registering probably the most famous win of the year, when he threw a scoreless 19th inning against the Cincinnati Reds.
He’s probably an above-average utility infielder but he’s nowhere near as valuable as many people believe him to play. It’s just that injuries to Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Placido Polanco have given Valdez so many opportunities to play over the last two seasons that he seems more important than he really is.
Valdez is not the kind of guy you want batting every day. His .634 OPS last year was 70 points lower than Raul Ibanez, and we all know how much Ibanez dropped off. The difference essentially is that Valdez has absolutely no power – none. He has five home runs in nearly 700 plate appearances as a Phillie. Cliff Lee hit two home runs in just 75 plate appearances this year… and Lee is a pitcher who has spent the majority of his career in the American League.
Valdez has no speed (just three steals in six attempts last year). He grounds into an absurdly high amount of double plays. And he doesn’t walk a lot, so his on-base percentage suffers (just .300 in two seasons with Philadelphia).
Defensively, Valdez can play a multitude of positions and he has a strong arm, but he’s really just an average defender. It doesn’t help his cause that Utley, Rollins, and Polanco are all arguably the best in the business at their respective position, but Valdez cost his team 5.0 runs for his defense in 2011, according to the website FanGraphs.
Valdez will be back in 2012, simply because the Phillies need a utility infielder, and he’s an adequate one at that. But he’s not the kind of guy you want to see playing much more than he has to.