While it`s easy to get wrapped up in the team`s struggles in 2014, there have been enormous positives at the corner of Clark and Addison as the team keeps getting better. Of course, Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo have broken out in a huge way, as have Jeff Samardzija and Jake Arrieta.
Luis Valbuena, however, has done more than enough to place himself right with some of the league`s best, and making him a legitimate Major League starter at third base. Valbuena has been getting much, much more recognition within the Cubs` fanbase and even the average fan can see Valbuena`s broken out of the “role player”, or even “automatic out” label as some have suggested.
Using the WAR accumulated so far entering Sunday`s game, you can argue that Valbuena deserves to be considered a bona fide Major League starter when compared to some of the game’s best:
Luis Valbuena: 1.4
Shin-Soo Choo: 0.6
Matt Holliday: 0.8
David Wright: 1.1
Jacoby Ellsbury: 1.3
Adrian Beltre: 1.5
Aramis Ramirez: 1.5
Here`s another “eye-opener”, comparing Valbuena`s slash line to third basemen around the league. Valbuena isn’t even in the top five for third basemen in All-Star Game voting, which is just ridiculous, as this shows:
Luis Valbuena: .276/.371/.442
David Wright: .275/.335/.390
Matt Carpenter: .281/.376/.378
Aramis Ramirez: .293./.338/.479
Ryan Zimmerman: .252/.310/.398
Pedro Alvarez: .235/.320/.398
Chase Headley: .200/.283/.333
Pablo Sandoval: .272/.321/.437
Casey McGehee: .311/.376/.389
I count four or five guys on this list Valbuena should definitely get a roster spot over, and from the June 15th National League voting update, a couple have a good chance.
Wright is the leading vote getter as of June 15th, and you could definitely make an arguement Valbuena has been much better, based on that WAR and slash line. And can you believe it, Sandoval is the runner-up. Valbuena has a higher average, OBP, SLG, and WAR than Sandoval.
Rockies’ talented young third-baseman Nolan Arenado (.305/.333/.489) came in third on that June 15th tally, but will probably fall as he sits on the Disabled List with a finger injury. Good ‘ole Aramis Ramirez clocked in as the fourth vote getter, and putting my biased love toward “Rammy” aside, I could see him making it in over Valbuena. While the defense is obviously not close to Valbuena, Ramirez has had a very nice year.
Then there’s Carpenter, who has a slugging percentage almost 70 points less than Valbuena.
It’s a popularity contest people (Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo aren’t even in the top five at their position) but a third baseman who`s cost controlled and can produce like that? Sign me up, as i`m officially a member of the Valbuena Fan Club.
Valbuena`s future might not be a starter at third for several years, but even with the next competitive Cubs team, Valbuena can be one of the best role players in baseball. That`s if he can survive the dreaded Trade Deadline, but, it`s hard to envision Valbuena getting dealt, as a team is very unlikely to pay for Valbuena`s real value.
Maybe including Valbuena as a wonderful complementary piece to a bigger deal could make sense, but Valbuena on his own could notch the Cubs a very solid prospect. The likelihood of a team dealing maybe even a top-100 prospect straight up? Very unlikely, even if Valbuena is arguably worth it this year.
Valbuena’s been one of the best out there at the hot corner this year, and it’s time he gets some National attention.