Minnesota Twins: Danny Valencia and His Miami Swag Return, but for How Long?
The. Swag. Is. Back.
Danny Valencia returned on Saturday night.
The gregarious South Beach sensation has been recalled from Triple-A Rochester to fill in for the injured Trevor Plouffe at the hot corner for the Minnesota Twins.
There is some question as to whether or not this will be a brief visit to the Twin Cities until Plouffe gets off the DL or if Danny V is here to stay. The third baseman had a .250 average with only seven home runs in 69 games in Western New York.
“Baseball is progressive,” said manger Ron Gardenhire before Saturday’s game when asked if Valencia will outperform the numbers he put up in the minors, “you’re supposed to get better the more at-bats you [have].”
Supposed to is the key phrase here.
After bursting onto the scene in 2010, Valencia hit .311/.351/.448 in 299 at-bats (1.9 WAR), he leveled out at .246/.294/.383 in 564 at-bats last season (-0.6 WAR) before dropping below the Mendoza Line in his 100 at-bats this season (-1.0 WAR).
In layman’s terms: In 2010, Valencia kicked ass. In 2011, he played like a subpar player that made too many fielding errors (18). And this year he struggled at the plate.
“He got sent down because he wasn’t swinging well,” Gardenhire stated simply.
“There’s going to be lows: there’s going to be times where you struggle and you have to make some adjustments,” continued the manager, addressing the question about Valencia outperforming his numbers in Rochester, which was originally posed by StarTribune writer Joe Christensen.
“Your writing, I’ve seen you write good stories and I’ve seen you write horses**t ones, so you’ve got to make adjustments in your writings so you get better.
“Same thing in baseball.”
One of Christensen’s particularly strong pieces was, in fact, a profile on Mr. Valencia before he was sent down to Triple-A this season.
In the profile, Christensen writes that although Valencia comes off as brash, he’s actually a good person that avoids drinking excessively and has a humbling story.
Valencia was not heavily scouted out of Spanish River High School in his hometown of Boca Raton, which is an hour north of Miami, and ended up going to the University of Carolina-Greensboro.
As a freshman he was named Southern Conference Player of the Year and garnered attention from bigger programs.
“I felt that wasn’t the place to get the most exposure,” he said in an interview I had with him last year, “so I spoke to some contacts down in South Florida, spoke to the head coach I played for in the summer ball league I played in after my senior year of high school and he said ‘Look, UM definitely wants you.’”
Valencia had trouble transferring from UNC-Greensboro. According to Omar Kelly of the Florida Sun-Sentinel, the school initially offered to release him from his scholarship but later refused to do so. He appealed to a university committee, which eventually granted him his release.
After gaining admittance to The U, Valencia still had to battle for scholarship money. The school only covered his books his first year.
Undrafted out of high school, he played first base while some guy named Ryan Braun manned the hot corner, but during his junior season Braun left for the minors and Valencia became the team’s third baseman. He hit .324/.382/.475 with nine homers and 61 RBI that year and was drafted in the 19th round by the Twins.
And if you hear him tell it, things didn’t get much better.
“When you’re a late-round draft pick and you don’t perform it’s easy for them to say ‘He can’t play here’ and they get rid of you,” he said in the interview last year. “It’s a shame to say it because I’ve seen a lot of good players get drafted late and you don’t get the opportunity some players get that are drafted higher.
“As a late-round pick you have to go battle, work hard and you’ve got to perform.
“Your performance trumps all.”
The grind doesn’t go away in the majors.
Valencia hits .311 and he’s named to the Rookie All-Star Team.
He hits .246 and makes 18 errors in the field and he’s a liability.
He hits below the Mendoza Line and he’s back in the Rochester.
“It’s tough down there,” said Gardenhire of the minors. “It’s tough to motivate yourself. When you’ve been up here playing in front of 40,000 fans and you go back to the minor leagues and you’re playing in front of five to seven thousand fans you have to dig deep to motivate yourself.”
Valencia has and an injury to Plouffe has given him an opportunity to play with the big boys. The question is whether he’ll be up for a week or he’ll stick around for good.
His presence certainly hasn’t been lost here at Target Field.
Around the park, No. 19 and 22 jerseys can be seen on the backs of loyal fans. The number switch was made this season, which left a few fans disgruntled. Valencia wore 22 in high school and college.
Valencia had to make a decision early in the game today. In the first inning he grounded a ball with men on second and third, took a look at home and threw across to first, allowing the runner to score.
Starter Sam Deduno and the Twins got out of the inning with the score 1-0, things could have been worse, but it’s possible that Minnesota could have gotten out of the inning with the score tied.
In Valencia’s first at-bat he struck out, swinging at the first three pitches…and the third was far outside the strike zone.
In his second at-bat he advanced on a throwing error by Minnesota-native Jack Hannahan.
A throwing error by a third baseman: how ironic.
At that point he’s still 0-for-27.
Casilla’s bases-clearing triple brought him and Dozier home.
In his third at-bat Valencia grounded into a fielder’s choice, but reached first safely. His walk up song for that at-bat, according to Shazam on my iPhone, was "F*ck Em’" by Rick Ross Feat. 2 Chainz & Wale.
In his fourth at-bat, Valencia singled to left-center, snapping his 0-for-28 skid.
Then, with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth…
Jose Lopez hits it right at him and…his throwing error extends the inning and allows a runner to score. The pitcher at the time, Luis Perdomo, walked the next guy, Jason Kipnis, in to make it 12-5. Casey Fien would come in and close out the game.
Safe to say, there were highs and lows.
It’s one game. It’s too early to judge him.
The Valencia jerseys, both the 19s and the 22s, remain in the stands, but the question still lingers:
Is the swag there and, if so, how long will it last?
All quotes were obtained first-hand.
Tom Schreier writes a weekly column for TheFanManifesto.com.
Follow him on Twitter @tschreier3.
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