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.