Last week, Jim Callis, Jonathan Mayo, and Sam Dykstra from MLB Pipeline gave their thoughts on the best prospect each team had in Rookie ball this season. The Cubs have always been one of the more active teams in the international free-agent market and it has paid dividends in the form of Jorge Soler, Starlin Castro, Eloy Jiminez, Gleyber Torres, and more.
The player they chose as the top player for the Cubs in Rookie ball will hope to follow in those players’ footsteps as he gets his career going and that player is shortstop Derniche Valdez. MLB Pipeline has him ranked as the 18th best prospect in the system but they point out that the VP of international scouting for the Cubs, Louie Eljaua, said that Valdez “could grow into a Starlin Castro build and provide Hanley Ramirez production.”
The scouting report on Valdez is that he’s a five-tool player (who isn’t at this age?) and that he should be able to stick at shortstop. The idea of a player that combines Starlin Castro and Hanley Ramirez’s production should be enough to get any fan salivating but the production on the field has been at least as impressive as that scouting report would have led you to hope.
This season in the DSL Valdez has played 19 games and gotten a total of 57 at-bats. He’s only hitting .228 but he has drawn 12 walks to boost his on-base percentage to .366 and he is carrying a .491 slugging percentage thanks to four homers and three doubles. He’s also stolen three bases.
He doesn’t have the highest batting average but you love to see the ISO being so high at such a young age. A lot of hitters at this age are one of two guys: the guy that only swings for the fences or the guy that slaps at the ball and only racks up singles, never able to tap into his raw power.
Valdez is listed at 5’11 150 pounds. He’s going up against pitchers that, even though they can’t consistently locate their pitches, can throw in the upper-90’s and he’s launching balls over the fence.
If Valdez continues to hit the ball with authority there is a world where he could be in full-season ball at Myrtle Beach before the end of the season and he won’t turn 18 until the end of March. If you’re looking for a hitter to dream of and you’ve already soured on the now-ancient 19-year-old Cristian Hernandez, Valdez may be your guy.