Will Valencia improve in 2012?
After former Twins third baseman Corey Koskie left before the 2005 season, the Twins had trouble finding a suitable replacement for years. They trotted out such names as Tony Batista, Mike Lamb, Joe Crede, Matt Tolbert and Nick Punto to name a few. Then came the 2010 season when Twins prospect Danny Valencia finally broke into the big leagues.
Valencia impressed during his time with the Twins (85 games played). He hit .311/.351/.448 with 7 homeruns and 40 RBI in 322 plate appearances. The Twins and their fans were confident they had finally found Coskie's replacement for years to come.
2011 was Valencia's first full season in the majors and the results were not on par with his rookie season. This was not surprising as most major league players regress and go through a "sophmore slump" of sorts in their second year. Valencia hit .246/.294/.383 with 15 homeruns and72 RBI.
Valencia did lead the Twins in RBI in 2011 (72) with Michael Cuddyer finishing second at 70. A closer look at the numbers may explain the drop in production from his rookie season. In 2010, Valenica's BABIP (batting average on balls in play) was a very high .345. That evened out in 2011 as his BABIP dropped to .275.
What that shows is Valencia was very lucky on a lot of balls put in play in his rookie season by finding the right spots, or was extremely unlucky last year as he was hitting them right to the defense. Either way, don't expect Valencia to put up another .345 BABIP like year in 2012, but don't expect it to be as low as last year either.
If I were to make a prediction for Valencia in 2012, I would say his batting average falls somewhere in the .277-.280 range. Don't expect much more power as he should hit around 15-18 homeruns in 2012. RBI totals are a bit tough to predict as it really depends on where he hits in the lineup and how often runners are in scoring position while he is at the plate. If he is left lower in the order, I think he will be just fine.
Valencia's defense still leaves a little to be desired but is one area he can definitely improve on with some hard work and practice. Twins first baseman Justin Morneau is a perfect example. Morneau initially was not thought of as a great defender but eventually turned himself into one of the better fielding first basemen in the AL by working at it.
Twins fans shouldn't expect huge things from Valencia in 2012 but should definitely expect to see some improvement over his sophmore season. I would be shocked if he hit over .300 but .280 with a little power and some clutch hitting is about as much as a major league team can ask for out of it's third baseman.
Valencia hit .298/.353/.469 over 5 minor league seasons and hit .292/.347/.373 in 49 games at AAA in 2010 before being call up to the big leagues. It's not out of the question to think Valencia can creep closer to the .300 range in the near future but don't expect it in 2012.
Valencia is 27 years old and still has plenty of time ahead of him. Expect him to be a factor which will help this lineup score more runs in 2012 and continue to be the mainstay the Twins have been looking for since Koskie's departure.
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