Let me preface this by saying that a “pleasant surprise” doesn’t necessarily equal a “third baseman of the future” label or anything like that. But there’s no denying that there is at least some sort of satisfaction in what Luis Valbuena brought to the table for the Chicago Cubs in 2012.
The Cubs were expected to roll through 2012 with Ian Stewart as their third baseman. That potential bounce back never really bounced at all, as poor performance and wrist surgery ended his season very early.
Rather than Jeff Baker or Joe Mather stepping into the role there, as we all may have expected, Valbuena managed to get the starts there. A guy basically picked up off the scrap heap to store in Triple A at the beginning of the year actually ended up providing some pretty steady play for the Cubs.
His numbers, by no means, were impressive when you look at the final totals. He hit just .219 and hit just four home runs. But he had stretches where he was very solid with the bat. His .310 on-base percentage isn’t awful, but could be better. You’d like more than 28 runs knocked in as well. He made some nice plays with his glove at the hot corner, as well.
The important thing was that Valbuena brought some stability to the spot. Even when Josh Vitters made his much-anticipated big league debut, Valbuena was still picking up starts. At least in the small sample space in which we saw Vitters, Valbuena looked to be better.
He may not be a third baseman for this team in the long term. But he certainly has value for this club, and could end up sticking around for some time as a utility guy capable of playing around the infield. He played both third and second for the Cubs, and was originally signed to play some shortstop.
Valbuena could be a very solid piece for this club, especially if he’s put into a role that would utilize his versatility.