On the surface, the Cardinals signing minor league free agent Raul Valdes looks like an immediate replacement for Evan Maclane, last seasons four-A left-hander at Memphis. And in reality, that is probably what he ends up being, because similar to Maclane, he was a starter in the minors and a reliever at the major league level. He was signed Nov. 19th, so this is old news, but let’s take a quick look.
Valdes just turned 33 in November. He’s a Cuban defector who left Cuba in 2003. He first signed with the Cubs and then after a few years away from professional baseball in the US, he was a minor league free agent and signed with the Mets. In New York is where he got his first taste of the major leagues before being granted free agency again this offseason.
At first glace, Valdes career numbers are not good. He has a career (minors and majors) FIP of 4.31. But, with a strikeout to walk ratio of 2/1 over his career, he has shown the ability to get strikeouts and limit walks, which has some value.
In his small sample size in the majors, he struck out left-handed hitters at a 11.57 Ks over 9 innings and walked 1.29 over 9 innings. He suffered some bad luck with a BABIP of .437. But, his xFIP of 2.78 against left-handers reflects that bad luck. He’s not looking like a great candidate for a LOOGY role now that the Cardinals picked up Brian Tallet, even though he has shown the ability to get out left-handers in limited at-bats.
Here’s a good video from MLB.com that shows Raul Valdes against Philadelphia from May of this season. He looks a bit more like what someone would call a “junk-baller”, but he does feature good movement.
My initial feeling that Raul Valdes is the Cuban Evan Maclane for the Cardinals was not far off, however, with MLB experience and the ability to get out left-handers, Valdes might have slightly more value in depth than Maclane did.