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Dexter Fowler trade: Meet Luis Valbuena, the Astros' newest infielder

The Astros have just traded for Valbuena. How does he fit into the lineup?

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

This morning the Astros traded Dexter Fowler for 3B/IF Luis Valbuena and SP Dan Straily. Who is Valbuena and how does he fit in with this team?

Luis Valbuena is a 29 year old infielder who was originally signed by the Seattle Mariners as an amateur free agent in 2002. He bats left handed and has played 3B, SS, and 2B throughout his career.

Last year Valbuena played 21 games at 2B, 124 games at 3B, 1 game at SS, and 1 game in the OF.  He has a one year contract for $4.2 million this year and will be arbitration eligible next year.

Valbuena had a career year last year, slashing .249/.341/.435 with a wRC+ of 116 and 2.7 WAR. He had a BB% of 11.9 and a K% of 20.7%. That walk rate would have been good for 4th on the Astros roster last year, behind Jon Singleton, Dexter Fowler, and Robbie Grossman in that order.

Steamer projects Valbuena to regress from his career season last year with a slash line of .239/.329/.384 and a 99 wRC+. He's also projected to maintain an 11.3% BB% and a 19.3% K rate. In Valbuena's three seasons with the Cubs, he has had BB% of 11.9%, 13.6%, and 11.9% in 2012, 2013, and 2014 respectively.

Fangraphs has an excellent piece on why Valbuena took a big step forward last year. He started absolutely mashing fastballs in locations he used to struggle with them. That is an improvement in approach that seems sustainable.

So what can we expect from Valbuena? Imagine Matt Dominguez's defense with a little less power and a much better walk rate and you have Valbuena.

I expect him to slot in as the starting 3B on Opening Day, occasionally platooning with Matt Dominguez against LHP. He should continue to hit for a decent clip, while walking at a rate of 10 percent.

The Astros have made the left side of their infield substantially better with the Jed Lowrie signing and this trade. Everyone get excited, because the Astros are going to be over .500 this year.