An extremely solid minor league player, Valera is nonetheless stuck behind the rejuvenated Kolten Wong. After a great season in AAA for the 25 year-old, what’s next?
Although most fans probably don’t realize, the minor league season is near over. The end of the regular season for the Memphis Redbirds ends next Monday, August 4th. Especially with the Cardinals in the hunt for both the NL Central and NL Wildcard, this fact obviously goes unnoticed.
As with all season ends, though, there comes a time for reflection and analysis. Players and organizations take the time to assess their year’s performance, along with the next step forward. For some, this year-end review comes with positive memories and an optimistic outlook. For others, it can be the exact opposite. Tough decisions are made, and plans for improvement are put into place.
Breyvic Valera Exceptional 2017 Season
For Breyvic Valera, a year-end review is a little more complex. To begin his 7th year in the minor leagues, he was assigned to AAA Memphis, just one step away from the bigs. Especially with the unproven Kolten Wong getting one more shot to begin the year, things were looking up. If Valera played well, it seemed likely he would get at least a chance. All he had to do was play well, consistently.
After a full year, it is certain that Valera did exactly that. He has played well the entire season, perhaps the top performer on the Memphis squad. Specifically, he is currently slashing .320/.374/.456, with 22 doubles, 6 triples, and 7 doubles. Beyond that, and most impressively, Valera has a microscopic strikeout rate of 8%. He as shown exceptional hand-eye, a wonderful approach, and solid gap-power.
Strictly on paper, it seems as if Valera has done everything possible to earn a promotion. Especially when you take into account his slight 160 pound frame, his offensive numbers become even more impressive. Defensively, he has proven great versatility, starting games at second base (the majority), right field, left field, and third base. Valera has been a team guy, performing exceptionally along the way.
Breyvic Valera has hit in 36 of his last 41 starts (.383, 64-167) and 43 of his last 53 (.373, 78-209). After an… https://t.co/aRKBJNy5DG
— Arch City Sports (@ArchCitySports) August 27, 2017
A Crowded Lineup Hurts Valera
Unfortunately, as it stands currently, there just isn’t room for Valera at the big league level. At his native position of second base, his promotion hinges largely upon the performance of the aforementioned Wong. Unfortunately for him but fortunately for the Cardinals, the previously inconsistent Wong has had a career year. Aside from an injury, Wong has been solid through 289 at-bats, boasting a .315 average. As long as Wong performs, his athleticism and sheer potential will keep him in the lineup.
Crossing an opportunity at second-base off the list, the next option would be in the outfield. Unfortunately, as most should know by now, the Cardinals arguably have too much outfield talent, in the majors and otherwise. Between Fowler, Bader, Grichuk, Pham, and Piscotty, there is simply no room to plug in a utility guy unproven at the big league level.
What’s next for Valera?
Honestly, all he can do is keep his head down and keep performing. Whether it be via injury or poor performance, he will eventually get his shot, whether it be this year or somewhere beyond. Also possible is that Valera becomes an intriguing trade piece, a solid player who could yield younger prospects to refill the bottom of the St. Louis ranks.
In a more general sense, Valera embodies one of the struggles of the minor league grind. No matter how well you perform individually, there are always innumerable factors that either limit or expedite your promotions and development. The game just simply isn’t fair, consequently rewarding those with the most mental toughness and resolve.
In times such as these, Valera must continue to improve, remaining hungry to achieve his dream 7 years in the making. No matter what happens above or below him, that is truly his only option. As a current member of the 40-man roster, his time will inevitably come, sooner or later. If he continues to grind and make his team better, he will be ready to seize the opportunity. All he needs is optimism and a little patience.