Jose Valdez had toiled for eight long seasons in the minor leagues entering the 2011 season. After more than 200 career appearances, including 56 starts, Valdez finally got the call to the big leagues in April. Valdez burst onto the scene throwing 97 mph heaters and striking out two of the three batters he faced in his Astros debut. Valdez pitched to two batters, striking out one, and earned a hold in his second appearance. At that point I was ready to declare Valdez a success and give him an important role in the Astros bullpen. Brad Mills didn’t quite see it that way and gave Valdez a less important role, bringing him into games that the Astros were already trailing. Mills may have been onto something, as the Astros rarely found themselves leading late in games. In addition, Valdez proved to be less effective in his subsequent appearances and was sent to AAA in June.
Valdez pitched only 14 innings in Houston and although the sample size was small some of the numbers were encouraging. Valdez surrendered a .375 BABIP which suggests that luck wasn’t on his side. He struck out more than one batter per inning and produced a high percentage of ground balls. Valdez was able to duplicate those numbers at Oklahoma City while pitching in high-leverage situations, earning nine saves on the year.
Valdez has a 1.3 career WHIP in the minors fueled partly by a 3.1 BB/9 IP. He has been a picture of inconsistency throughout his career and the Astros granted Valdez Free Agency during the offseason. After passing through waivers unclaimed Valdez was re-signed to a minor league deal and invited to Spring Training. Valdez has appeared in only one spring game thus far, suggesting that his chances of making the team are slim. Look for Valdez to start the year at AAA in search of the consistency that has eluded him to this point in his career.