About a week after the 2013 season ended, the Astros claimed LHP Raul Valdes off waivers from the Philadelphia Phillies. I’m still not sure I understand exactly why the move was ever made.
Raul Valdes (Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports)
Is Valdes a starter or a reliever?
Will he make the team out of Spring Training?
Will he still be on the 40-man roster tomorrow?
All of these seem to be legitimate questions.
Valdes made 17 appearances for Philadelphia last season — all in relief. Meanwhile, he made 12 appearances for AAA Lehigh Valley — all of which were starts. His numbers as a big league reliever aren’t exactly impressive (4.94 ERA & 1.31 WHIP in 95 games). But Valdes had good numbers (2.86 ERA & .228 BAA) as a starter at AAA in last year. The lefty followed that up with a decent showing in the Dominican Winter League, also working as a starting pitcher.
So, Valdes remains somewhat of a mystery. I honestly have no idea what to expect from the Cuban native. I assume the Astros view him as a bullpen arm. That is the area that needed to be addressed when the waiver claim was made. But the team has continued to make additions to the ‘pen and Valdes could be the odd man out.
Raul has had some success as a starter. But there are a couple of things to remember. That success didn’t come against big league hitters — and he has not been able to work deep into games. That’s a combination that I don’t think the Astros should be willing to gamble on.
There will be plenty of competition for bullpen spots this Spring. In addition to Valdes, the Astros have lefties Kevin Chapman, Darin Downs, and Dallas Keuchel — just to name a few. Chapman and Keuchel performed admirably last season and should have a leg up on the competition. But, unlike waiver claims Downs and Valdes, the two youngsters still have minor league options remaining. That could end up being a determining factor in who starts the season in Houston.
New addition Jesse Crain could begin the year on the disabled list. That could create another opening for the likes of Valdes and Downs.
Honestly, I don’t think Valdes is one of the top eight relievers on the roster. If he somehow manages to make the team, I wouldn’t expect him to still be in Houston at the All-Star break.