Chicago Cubs: Luis Valbuena Could Play His Way into Full-Time Role

Eli GreenspanSenior Analyst IJune 14, 2012

With Ian Stewart heading to the disabled list, the Cubs have purchased the contract of Luis Valbuena, the 26-year-old infielder who will see the majority of starts at third base. 

He has earned it, but the next two weeks will prove to be his ultimate test. He has repeatedly shown an ability to hit in Triple-A, but hasn't found success in the majors.

In 58 games this season for Triple-A Iowa, Valbuena is hitting .303 with 8 home runs, 31 RBIs and 50-28 K-BB ratio. His eye at the plate has not gone unnoticed over the years, but for whatever reason it has not translated into at-bats at the MLB level.

In six seasons at Triple-A (279 games), Valbeuna is a .304 hitter with a .387 OBP and has struck out 214 times to 138 walks. The Indians were never able to get any production out of him and cut him loose before the start of the 2012 season.

The Cubs picked him and the signing went mostly under the radar, in large part because Epstein and Hoyer's other moves overshadowed this one. Heck, Adrian Cardenas was getting more attention than Valbuena, if you've been following the team closely you can understand how he was overlooked.

So it's June 14th, the Cubs have the worst record in baseball and Valbeuna is entering the picture with little to no pressure on him to help the offense.

He's replacing a hitter who owns a .201 average with five home runs and 17 RBIs in 55 games. Even if Valbuena hits his career average of .226, he would still be out producing Stewart.

I have a feeling the new opportunity in Chicago, combined with a legitimate opportunity to earn playing time, will prove to help Valbuena and the Cubs.