While technically still in big league camp, newly acquired Cleveland Indians second baseman Luis Valbuena will be starting off the 2009 season as a member of the Columbus Clippers.
But for 2010, don't be surprised if this Venezuelan will be a big factor in aiding fellow countryman Asdrubal Cabrera's natural progression to the shortstop position.
Only 23 years old, Valbuena was on a similar fast track to the majors, eerily similar to Cabrera.
2008 was a breakout year for him, as he batted a combined .303 with 11 homers and 60 RBI in 128 games, with an OBP at .382. These numbers led him to a late September call up for Seattle, where he appeared in 18 games.
Luis is a left-handed hitter who shows a little pop off of his bat from what I have seen. Valbuena reminds me a little of Ray Durham, but with more power potential. This spring, the Indians have put him at shortstop a few times and he has shown pretty impressive arm strength and range at a position he will probably play a few times down in Triple A.
Valbuena is best friends with Asdrubal, who both played for Cardenales de Lara
in Winter Ball where he batted .291 in a very competitive league.
If the Indians were not able to trade for Mark DeRosa, I actually believe Valbuena would have been a viable candidate to start the season on the big league club. He is currently only 2-16 in Spring Training action, but did belt a solo home run (he has been mostly a replacement late in games).
Even though he is probably not one of the top 10 prospects in the Tribe organization, I believe Valbuena has a chance to be a better than average Major League second baseman and make the fans of Seattle hope that the Mariners never make a trade with the Indians again.
The Tribe infield looks set for 2009, but don't be surprised to see Luis Valbuena up in Cleveland before the summer is over.
Cleveland Indians Blog