One Night Only: Hail Cesar Valdez!

Before we delve into either the nitty or the gritty of tonight’s featured match-up, allow me to inform the reader that, had he read and obeyed this past Friday’s edition of One Night Only, he’d have been apprised of one of the killerest pitchers’ duels that is sure to occur this season. For it was this past Friday — a.k.a. CPL Fest 2010 — that Clifton Phifer Lee and Colby Phrigging Lewis pitched seven and nine innings of shutout baseball, respectively.

All of which is to say that One Night Only is here to help you. And also, Colby Lewis is a demigod.

[Note: Minor league numbers are courtesy of StatCorner. HR/BIA = Home Run per Ball in Air. MLB average for starters is 6.5%. MiLB average is I-don’t-know-what.]

Arizona at Houston | Monday, May 03 | 8:05 pm ET
Starting Pitchers
D-Backs: Cesar Valdez (R)
23.2 IP, 9.51 K/9, 1.90 BB/9, .328 BABIP, 56.2% GB, 12.0% HR/BIA, 3.75 FIP (Triple-A)
Projected FIP: N/A (FAN) 5.22 (CHONE) 5.36 (ZiPS)

Astros: Felipe Paulino (R)
21.2 IP, 6.23 K/9, 5.82 BB/9, .323 BABIP, 44.9% GB, 0.0% HR/FB, 5.41 xFIP
Projected FIP: 4.54 (FAN) 4.75 (CHONE) 5.00 (ZiPS)

Persons of Interest
If there’s one thing baseball nerds the world over like, it’s the rent-free paradise that is a mother’s basement. But if there’s one other thing baseball nerds like, it’s the Major League debut of an interesting prospect. In the case of tonight’s Arizona/Houston contest, the prospect in question is Mr. Cesar Valdez.

In addition to probably being the distant relative of the man who frigging invented coffee, Valdez was ranked by our man on the scene Marc Hulet as the eight-best prospect in the Arizona system. If you read Hulet’s analysis of Valdez, you read words that looked almost a hundred percent like these:

Valdez is a soft-tosser whose best pitch is a change-up. His fastball sits in the mid-to-high-80s. Even so, he’s had success in the minors, although he hit a speed bump in ‘09 at triple-A (5.18 FIP in 19 games). The right-hander began the year in double-A, where he allowed 63 hits in 64.1 innings and posted a 3.00 FIP. He has good control (2.81 BB/9 in triple-A) but his strikeout rates are modest, as he pitches to contact due to his lack of a true out-pitch. Valdez does a nice job of keeping the ball on the ground and should produce a ground-ball rate around 50%. Because of his fringe-stuff, he could end up as a middle reliever.

Of course the words “ground-ball rate” alone are enough to prick up the ears of the armchair prospect maven. That said, there’s very possibly a startling development in the Cesar Valdez Story. In a recent edition of his Diamondback Notes, The Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro wrote the following:

Diamondbacks farm director Mike Berger watched Valdez pitch on April 19 and came away impressed.

“When I saw him, I saw a wipeout sinker,” Berger said. “He had plus sinker and a change-up that acted like a split. He mowed through Sacramento. That sinker had real bottom to it. He was getting lots of swings and misses.”

Valdez throws his sinker in the 89-91 mph range, up from the 86-88 mph he was throwing in the fall league.

That latter range is the one off of which Hulet was very likely working. But if Valdez really is touching 90 mph now, and if his sinker is actually functioning as a swing-and-miss pitch, then there’s the distinct possibility that Valdez could impress.

One Other Note
Cole Gillespie was recalled last week from Triple-A Reno. He’s not only another of those guys on Hulet’s Top 10 list, but he’s also a player about whom I, personally, was quite bullish last summer. (Be warned: that article is flipping long. Just go to the end to read about Gillespie.)

If I Had My Druthers
• Cesar Valdez would avoid making me look like a fool.
• Felipe Paulino would stop making me looks like a fool.
• I would stop making my own self look like a fool.

We hoped you liked reading One Night Only: Hail Cesar Valdez! by Carson Cistulli!

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Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

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marc w

Apparently Reno Aces manager Brett Butler likes to get creative when telling players they’ve gotten the call to the Diamondbacks.
This story talks about how he broke the news to Gillespie:
(hat tip Mike Curto).