The Cincinnati Reds have two middle infielders headed to the annual Arizona Fall League that have an opportunity to contribute to the major league club, and they also represent good value as former third round and seventh round draft picks.
Chris Valaika, who was signed out of Cal State Fullerton University, had a successful beginning to his 2008 season when he hit .363/.393/.585 in 135 High-A at-bats, with seven homers. He was then promoted to Double-A, where he posted a line of .301/.352/.443 with 11 homers in 379 at-bats. Valaika is not a power hitter but he could be good for 10-15 homers at the major league level, while playing a passable shortstop. His lack of patience has haunted him throughout his pro career and he walked just 35 times in 514 at-bats this season. The right-handed batter handled Double-A southpaws with ease and posted a line of .343/.385/.565 in 108 at-bats.
Justin Turner followed a similar path to Valaika this season. Turner began in High-A ball and hit .316/.384/.390 in 136 at-bats. The infielder, who relies more on small ball than a power stroke, then hit .289/.359/.432 in 280 Double-A at-bats with eight homers to go along with 33 walks and 54 strikeouts. Turner, a right-handed batter, should be valuable coming off the bench for the Reds after hitting .372/.423/.535 against southpaws in Double-A (86 at-bats). The soon-to-be 24-year-old should begin 2009 in Triple-A and could appear in Cincinnati before mid-season.
Valaika and Turner likely won’t unseat incumbents Brandon Phillips and Alex Gonzalez in 2009, but they could give some fringe major league veterans a run for their money, like Jolbert Cabrera, Jerry Hairston, and Andy Phillips.
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