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Astros Minor League Review: Jose Valdez, RHP, Oklahoma City

Dilip Vishwanat - Getty Images

The 6-foot-4, 200 pount right-hander Jose Valdez is in his second season with the Houston Astros major league club and his third with the Astros system after signing as a free agent following the 2008 season. Valdez was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2000 and spent eight seasons working through the Yankees minor league system, but never got higher than 19 1/3 innings in Triple-A when he was 26.

Valdez missed the 2005 season with an injury after spending his first four in the Yankees system as a starter. He was bumped into the bullpen and immediately saw his strikeout rate soar.

That's what made him stand out in 2012. In 43 innings for Oklahoma City, Valdez struck out 59 batters with just 12 walks. He worked as the RedHawks closer, saving 21 games and finishing another 15. His ERA looks a little lopsided at 4.74, but his FIP adjusts that much lower to 2.88. That shows why he was one of the relievers to get the call to Houston this season.

After the jump, we'll look at what little Pitch F/X data we have on him to see what he throws and how that could translate to big league success.

Valdez generated a ton of ground ball outs with Oklahoma City this season. Combine that with his excellent strikeout rate (which was over 12 per 9 innings, a stat Houston hasn't seen since Brad Lidge), and he has the potential to be a very nice bullpen find.

However, that success didn't translate in the brief appearances in the majors he's had the last two seasons. Let's look at a VERY small sample of his pitches, to see what he threw this season:

Pitch Count Selection Velocity Vertical Horizontal Spin Angle Spin Rate
SL 32 50.8% 83.0 2.18 -1.27 203 740
FT 25 39.7% 94.1 8.65 -7.04 219 2,287
CH 3 4.8% 82.9 3.39 -5.21 241 1,172
FF 3 4.8% 94.5 10.04 -5.11 207 2,277

His fastball is the most interesting pitch. While the Pitch F/X cameras all have called this a two-seam fastball, it actually profiles much closer to a normal, four-seamer. It's got the same speed of a four-seamer and most of the pitches he threw had vertical movement of 7 or higher, when the average two-seamer has a vertical movement of about five.

This isn't a problem of pitch classification, either, as I broke down all of those fastballs and only three of the 25 pitches had breaks consistent with a two-seamer. But, they all had similar spin angles and rates, which when added to the same velocity, means they're likely the same pitch.

We also have a little info from last season, and we can see that what's called a two-seamer this year was called a four-seamer last year.

Pitch Count Selection Velocity Vertical Horizontal Spin Angle Spin Rate
FF 152 58.7% 93.6 6.28 -6.97 227 1,950
SL 62 23.9% 82.9 0.78 0.16 186 520
CU 30 11.6% 82.6 -4.85 0.32 3 972
CH 9 3.5% 82.7 0.79 -3.45 259 754
FT 3 1.2% 93.1 2.62 -9.95 254 2,097
FC 2 0.8% 90.0 7.59 -0.53 183 1,469

It's clear the fastball and slider are his two favorite pitches, which jibes with what we know about most power relievers. The slider is a nice out pitch, and has enough vertical break to probably generate ground balls, too.

I wonder if Valdez will get a shot to stay in the bullpen next year out of spring training. He's got an interesting mix and saw results in the minors.