Jordany Valdespin has done a lot of good things for the Mets in his three tours with the team this season. It’s only the beginning of August and he owns the club record for most pinch hit home runs in a season with five long balls- all of which have come in a big spot. However, since his fifth pinch hit homer against the Nationals on July 24th, Valdespin has seen his average dip from .293 to .265. Slumps are going to happen and rough spots will occur, especially for a 24-year-old rookie, but if he wants to keep his roster spot with the Mets, he needs to show more patience at the plate.
Over the last few days, we’ve been seeing just that from Valdespin, as he drew a walk as a pinch hitter Thursday against the Giants, and he was much more selective at the plate in his one at-bat last night against the Padres last night. We saw breaking balls get bounced, which are pitches we’ve grown accustomed to him taking a hack at, but he’s starting to let those balls go with more frequency as he’s gaining more experience.
Throughout his minor league career, which spans about four seasons, Valdespin’s walk rate never went over 6.7%. He’s been able to get by in the minors with being a free swinger, with his time in Triple-A Buffalo being a good example of that (.281/.322/.422 and 4.9% BB rate), but he’s quickly learning that word gets around the Major Leagues a lot quicker than the Minors, especially when a rookie is having some success.
So, in just 123 MLB at-bats, Jordany Valdespin is seeing himself struggle a bit, and there’s reason to believe his inability to walk on a consistent basis isn’t helping get out of this rut any quicker. When a hitter is in a slump, he looks for anything to get himself back on track; some hitters even say that they just need to track the ball better to regain their feel at the plate. In order to track the ball better, Valdespin is going to have to see more pitches and be more selective.
As a comparison, let’s take two extremes and put some of Valdespin’s numbers up against David Wright‘s. The third baseman is having a career year, and a lot of it can be attributed to the fact that he’s cut down on his swing with two strikes, and not chasing as many balls in the dirt as he did last year. In 2012, Wright is swinging at pitches out of the strike zone at a rate of 22.7%, compared to Valdespin doing so 39% of the time. The 24-year-old is swinging nearly at half the pitches that come his way (49%), whereas Wright takes a more patient approach, with a swing percentage of 41.6%.
Valdespin’s 76.4% contact rate is decent, but he’s not making solid contact as consistently as he could be since he’s making contact with pitches out of the zone 65% of the time. Since Wright’s out-of-the-zone swing percentage is much lower than Valdespin’s, when he does swing, he hits it hard. This is why Wright hits line drives 22.1% of the time, compared to the 10.5% rate that Valdy is sporting. Obviously, he’s had a lot less at-bats, but it’s clear to see his approach to the plate.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that he’s aggressive and likes to swing the bat; that’s partially why he’s been successful in late-game pinch hitting situations. However, if he wants to stick around at the Major League level and become a regular, he’s going to have to walk a little more. It comes with time and hard work, but once he’s becomes more patient, he’ll be able to become a more consistent and well rounded hitter. The last two games have been a good start, now it’s just a matter of staying dedicated to it for the long haul.