This player preview was written by CB Wilkins, who can be found at dropout productions, and posts here as cbwilk.
Luis Valdez originally signed with the Pirates in 2001, but didn’t make his American debut until 2004, spending his first three seasons with Pittsburgh’s Dominican Summer League team. That slow progress would typify the 24 year old’s career, as he managed to turn in mediocre to poor performances with various Single A teams from 2005 to 2007. After switching to relief in 2007 in his third tour of duty with Single A Lynchburg, Valdez posted better, but still unimpressive results, and was allowed to leave as a Minor League free agent. The Braves snapped him up for 2008 and assigned him to AA Mississippi, where he posted the best season of his career as the championship team’s closer.
Valdez has never possessed an overpowering arsenal, which, combined with a less polished grasp of pitching, led to the lack of success early in his career. As a starter, hitters were given multiple chances against his ordinary stuff, and were often able to get the better of him. Valdez has made leaps and bounds with his knowledge of how to pitch, and moving to the bullpen has limited the number of times hitters are able to see him. This combination has allowed him to be very effective as a reliever, and he’s shown the mental capability for handling the pressure of the closer roll.
He was added to the 40-man roster in October to prevent him from becoming a Minor League free agent again, a clear indication that the Braves feel they have something. While the chances of him making the Major League team out of Spring Training are incredibly slim, it’s very likely that he will get a chance to pitch in Atlanta at some point in the year. Valdez doesn’t profile as a closer in the Majors, but he will likely be given a chance to finish games for AAA Gwinnett and that experience will help him reach his ceiling as a Major League reliever.
Thanks to CB for introducing us to a guy who most Braves fans don't know anything about.