Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF): Good defensive catcher with plus power potential and surprising athleticism; potential All-Star backstop.
The Player: Sebastian Valle (C, Philadelphia Phillies) – The Phillies signed Valle out of Mexico as a 16-year old in 2007 and immediately sent him to the DSL to start his career. He hit well there and then immediately hit well in the GCL in 2008. The 2009 season was his breakout campaign with a monster .307/.335/.531 line as an 18-year old in the NYPL. He struggled some in 2010 with Lakewood but got back on track with a .284/.312/.394 line in 91 games at High-A Clearwater in 2011.
Body: Strong, well-proportioned body with good strength throughout. Lower half has thickened some as he has matured but he is still extremely athletic and moves well. May bulk up a little more as he reaches his physical peak but he has room on his frame to add mass without issue.
Makeup: Diligent worker with a good grasp of how to take criticism and make himself a better player. His pitchers like working with him and he has improved his ability to command the game from behind the plate.
Hit: Tremendous strength in wrists and forearms gives him plus-plus bat speed. His bat gets to the zone quickly and with good loft stays in the zone for a long time. His timing can get off and he can get behind on good fastballs when his high leg kick isn’t timed properly. Gets pull happy and works much better when he uses the opposite field. Won’t ever be a standout hitter but will be enough to let his power play. Grade – 30/40
Power: Plus-plus bat speed and elevation on the back half of his swing gives him ability to drive the ball over the fence to all fields. Truly impressive pull power that he falls in love with at times, letting his swing get long. Could still add additional strength giving him additional power projection beyond his present state. Grade (raw power) – 40/60
Arm: Quick release and natural arm strength but the ball doesn’t always come out clean. Drops arm at times allowing throws to sail. When his arm stays up he has more than enough strength to help control the running game, and with more consistency he be an average thrower. Grade – 40/50
Fielding: Highly athletic for a catcher. Moves very well behind the plate and has advanced blocking skills for a player his age. He catches the ball cleanly and has begun to develop a feel for framing borderline pitches. Has good footwork on throws and has improved his glove-to-hand transfer. Still needs to improve game calling ability and consistency on throws. Grade – 40/60
Speed: Below-average home to first times despite good overall athleticism. Has slowed as his lower half has thickened and could slow even more in the coming years, but not too much. Has good instincts and shouldn’t be a complete hindrance on the bases. Grade – 30/30
Summation: Bat speed and power potential gives him above-average offensive potential behind the plate. Could be a .260 hitter with 20-25 home runs annually. Won’t offer much on-base ability outside of batting average thanks to aggressive approach. Defense should also be a plus both with his handling of the pitching staff and his catch-and-throw skills. If both offense and defense reach their ceiling he has the potential to be an All-Star level catcher that hits sixth in the lineup.
Relative Risk: High. He’s still very young and his ultra-aggressive, swing-at-everything approach could ultimately hold him back.
Future: He wore down in the second half of the hot Florida summer but showed enough that the Phillies are prepared to send him to Double-A Reading to start the 2012 season. He could require two years to polish his game but he is the catcher of the future in Philadelphia and could be a key piece for the Phillies to build around as the current crop of stars continues to age.