With the “second half” of the MLB calender set to open play tomorrow night, there are interesting story lines to follow for just about every team, regardless of where that team sits in the standings or playoff races.
As a die-hard New York Mets fan, I’m well versed in what has to happen in order for the team to remain competitive the rest of this season. We touched upon one of the key questions surrounding the team, in regards to Dillon Gee’s shoulder surgery to clean up a blood clot in an artery yesterday. Even today on Waiver Wire Radio, the importance of David Wright continuing to carry the offense will determine just how high this team can rise.
However, there is one player that may just be the guy that will put this team over the top. He’s been on the rise as the season has moved forward, and it is beginning to feel like he’s ready to take on a much larger role for this team the rest of the way.
That player is none other than Jordany Valdespin.
Affectionately called “The Enigma”, Valdespin has been a difficult player to judge from a Mets fan standpoint. Entering the season, nobody really knew what to make of him. We knew he burst onto the scene as a dynamic prospect in 2011, when he seemingly out of nowhere hit 15 home runs spread over two levels while showing blazing fast speed on the base paths. Much like other Mets prospects, he wasn’t well equipped to hold down a true defensive position, but had begun to show signs of significant improvement at second base, having shifted there from shortstop towards the end of the season.
People began to form opinions about Valdepsin before they even saw him play once he arrived to Major League Spring Training earlier this year. Here was a kid without a Major League at-bat to his name walking into camp with some serious swagger and gold around his neck. “Who the hell is this guy?” seemed to be the most popular question. Once he got into game action, we saw the raw skills and the talent that had scouts raving about him, but continued to be warned by announcers and team officials that he may be too confident and cocky right now. Then, once Andres Torres and Kirk Nieuwenhuis went down with early injuries, there was an opening in center field.
Citing his speed and versatility, Terry Collins and the Mets brass decided to give Valdy a try out in center in another attempt to find a position for a kid with significant skill. Though he held his own out there, the team got both Kirk and Torres back in time for the season, and the experiment was over, for now.
From Spring Training until today, Mets fans know what has happened. Valdespin has been riding the “Buffalo Express”, though its been getting harder and harder each time to send him back down. Every time Valdepsin has gotten a chance to start in the Mets fluxuating line-up, be it at second base, left field, center field or shortstop, he’s done something fantastic. He’s seemingly apart of every major Mets rally. He has the appearance of a hacker at the plate, making hard contact when he’s on a pitch or flailing at pitches in the dirt when he’s fooled. Every time he does something, anything, the same text is exchanged between me and my good friend Ted Youngling:
GK: The Enigma.
TY: Who is this man…
Well, this man may be the key to the rest of the Mets season. He’s a true spark plug, the first one evident on the Mets roster in this new, post-Jose Reyes world. He walks to the plate looking eerily similar to Luis Castillo, only he hits like a young Reyes. Terry Collins continues to invent new ways to get his bat into the line-up, and there may be a spot opening for him yet. Andres Torres has been battling a rash of injuries, this time a sore back. All while Nieuwenhuis has encountered his first real dose of struggles at the Major League level. Valdespin has looked like a natural out in center when he has been given the opportunity to play there, and with nobody stepping up to claim the position, I don’t see why he shouldn’t be given every opportunity to earn a more permanent spot in the line-up.
Look, like it or not, Jason Bay is going to be returning to the Mets sooner or later. Same with Mike Baxter (though his return will be much more anticiapted as a late-inning pinch-hitter). The Mets find themselves in a position where they’re trying to win now without sacrificing the future the organization wants to move towards. Jordany Valdespin is both part of the “win now” Mets and the future Mets. I don’t think you can convince me that Valdy is better off going back to AAA when the team needs him now. He provides the team very few players can with his energy and attitude.
Valdespin has earned his opportunity to start every day. And, he may be the key that puts the Mets over the top this season.