|I bet you didn't|
know that Valencia
U of Miami
Quite frankly, I don't care at all that Valencia went to the University of Miami, and I suspect that his teammates, manager and coaches don't either. I can absolutely see how, over the course of a 162 game season, Valencia rubbed some in the Twins' organization the wrong way. But still, it's fair to note that Valencia was at least healthy and on the field, even if he wasn't fantastic. Last year, Ron Gardenhire was quick to throw Valencia under the bus, when sometimes there were other parties that were equally, if not more, guilty of bad baseball transgressions. For whatever reason, Valencia was often in the doghouse. At that time, I suggested that Gardy lay off of Valencia (publicly, at least). Looking back, however, maybe Valencia needed to be taken down a couple pegs in the press, even if he didn't always deserve it. I seriously doubt that Valencia feels less full of himself now than he did last year, but perhaps his second full season will bring greater maturity. After all, he's not young -- 27 this season -- and he's been in the show for about 18 months now. And after the departure of several veterans in the past few months, he's starting to climb the Twins' seniority ladder.
For 2012, I don't know that we can expect Valencia to be a .300 hitter. After last season, .275 would look pretty good in comparison. And, to be honest, if Miguel Sano keeps maturing into the ballplayer that everyone expects him to become, Valencia's time at third base is probably limited to the next 2-3 seasons. Sure, Valencia developing into a complete ballplayer would be fantastic, and I would never suggest that having talented players on the field is bad, but Valencia was never a blue chip prospect to begin with: he never even hit .300 in AA or AAA. But I hope that Valenica shows a little more maturity this year, that he stays out of the doghouse (whether deserved or undeserved), and that the reported hard work he has been putting in this offseason pays dividends. It's funny -- for as much as people (especially bloggers, myself included) talk about Mauer, Morneau, Liriano and Span -- Valencia could be just as important a cog if he put together a great season. He'll likely never be a 40 home run per year guy, but he has shown flashes of greatness, as well as the ability to hit in the clutch. He certainly has talked the talk, maybe in 2012 he will walk the walk. I'd be content with a .275/.350/.445 season out of Valencia, accompanied by stable defense.