Danny Valencia has long been hailed as the third baseman of the future for the Minnesota Twins. Not since Corey Koskie have fans been able to watch a consistent jersey take grounders from the hot corner.
After the 2004 season, the Twins were forced to plug the hole at third base. In 2005, it was Michael Cuddyer. In 2006 and 2007, it was Nick Punto. Last year, Brian Buscher and Mike Lamb shared the duties.
During most of that time, though, the Twins were patiently waiting for their future to develop.
Valencia was drafted in the 19th round of the 2006 MLB Draft, and has been regarded as the future ever since. After starting his minor-league career with the Elizabethton Twins, Valencia has moved up at least one level each season.
This speedy movement between minor league levels is certainly rare within the Twins' organization, but if anyone deserved to be rushed, it was Valencia.
The sluggish pace at which some top prospects move through the minors is infuriating to fans, as they want to see the player in the big-leagues as soon as possible. Who can blame them? In reality, though, the lethargic approach the Twins have toward their highly-prized prospects is a blessing in disguise.
Valencia's case is different; every league and team he has been placed with hasn't brought a noticeable dip in his offensive or defensive output. Though the challenges get tougher, Valencia has remained on an even keel throughout his career.
In his four seasons of professional baseball, Valencia has posted an average less than .300 exactly once: when he hit .297 at Beloit and Fort Myers, hardly an unforgivable offense.
Valencia somehow manages to blast around a dozen home runs a year while getting on base at an impressive clip, proving that he's ready for major-league opponents.
Promoted to Triple-A for the first time just one short month ago, some argue that he simply hasn't had enough at-bats to warrant a promotion to the Bigs. With Joe Crede potentially heading to the disabled list, though, Valencia could be thrust into a mid-summer pennant race, ready or not.
Through 26 games, Valencia is hitting .370/.379/.620 with the Rochester Red Wings, while also tallying five home runs and 22 RBI. The slash line reeks of small sample size, but his success is not something that can be easily ignored.
I'm not going to tell you that Valencia would hit with the same effectiveness in the Majors that he is in Rochester. I can't even tell you that he'd get on base more than Crede, the king of wasted at-bats.
One thing that is known is that Valencia would almost certainly be better both offensively and defensively than a platoon of Buscher and Punto at the hot corner.
Knowing the Twins, though, they'd prefer the latter over Valencia any day of the week.