Last night, TCM got an interesting Tweet from Tim Bouvine that asked, in essence, whether the Twins should consider dealing Danny Valencia this offseason, if they can get something of value for the young 3B. It’s an interesting question (Tim asks a ton of those, actually, interesting questions), made even more relevant by Valencia’s second major league homer last night, which gave the Twins their lead.
Valencia has been a terrific addition to the Twins lineup in 2010, hitting .328/.372/.441 in 191 plate appearances. As the Twins have dealt with injuries and ineffectiveness from Nick Punto, Brendan Harris, and Matt Tolbert, Danny has solidified the hot corner and turned the position from an offensive black hole into an asset.
That said,Valencia has been playing above his head. A nineteenth round selection in 2006, it’s safe to say the Twins didn’t have big plans for Danny V. But he hit well at every level, and gradually moved up the minor league ranks until he seemed to stall out at AAA. Already 25, Valencia underwhelmed when he posted a .289/.322/.421 line across parts of two seasons in Rochester. And his fielding was not viewed as particularly strong either, after a lackluster 2009. After looking at his minor league equivalencies, The Platoon Advantage’s own Bill, back on his own site, even wrote as late as June, “Valencia, as a Major League player, looks a lot like Nick Punto, except without any of those things that make Punto a useful player. Put yet another way: blech.” So what gives?
Much of Valencia’s success is attributable to a ridiculous .382 BABIP, which he’s not likely to sustain. A lot of the rest of his value is tied up in his defense. Indeed, an absurd amount of Valencia’s contribution to the Twins has been his otherworldly defense in 2010. Bill talked about the disagreements between the defensive metrics last week, so I’ll just post them in triple slash form as UZR150/TZ/RS: 24.7/20/6. Of course, we’re talking about a very small sample size, given that Danny V hasn’t even played 50 games at third yet, and these numbers are likely (certain?) to change. After all, on the MLB leaderboards, those totals would rank 1st, 1st, and 11th respectively if he had garnered enough playing time. But no one ever accused Valencia of being better than Ryan Zimmerman or Adrian Beltre, so we’re likely to find those numbers evening out sooner rather than later.
All in all, The Common Man thinks that he had Valencia pegged a few weeks back when he saw him as a right-handed Cecil Travis. And that’s valuable, probably more valuable than what the Twins can get back in any trade. But if his performance really is all smoke and mirrors, the time to sell could be now, when his value will never be higher.
The Twins won’t, of course. First and foremost, they are a very conservative organization, and Valencia represents virtually free talent this year, 2011, and 2012. The club is also short of an internal replacement for him, assuming they decline Nick Punto’s option and don’t think Luke Hughes is acceptable. That means the club would have to tread into free agency (where the only palatable option is Adrian Beltre) or the trade market (where they’d have to give something up in return). No, the only solution that makes sense for the Twins is to hold here, and to hope that Danny V is more substance than style.