Colorado Rockies: Is Pat Valaika This Year’s Daniel Descalso?
Could Pat Valaika be this year’s Daniel Descalso for the Colorado Rockies? It’s a question that bears asking, especially after what we saw from Valaika and heard from Colorado manager Bud Black on Thursday afternoon.
Last season, Descalso, who is now with the Arizona Diamondbacks, filled two major roles for the Rockies.
First, he was a do-everything type of player. The versatile Descalso saw time in left field, shortstop, first base, second base and third base. He even served as the team’s designated hitter in four games. If a position needed to be filled, Descalso’s range and athleticism allowed former manager Walt Weiss to plug him into the lineup with confidence where needed.
Second, Descalso was a clutch hitter. Overall last season, he posted a .264 average with a career-high eight homers and 38 RBI. Those numbers included a .368 average with runners in scoring positon and a 3-for-6 performance with eight RBI when the bases were loaded.
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Descalso brought a lot of positives to the Rockies on a number of levels, including a confidence that he could get the job done, in the field or at the plate.
Thursday’s showing against the Washington Nationals at Coors Field hinted at the same type of feelings for the 24-year-old Valaika. And these feelings come from both from a managerial confidence standpoint and a crowd confidence standpoint.
Playing for the first time ever in left field on Thursday, Valaika looked, for the most part, like a natural in the outfield. Only one time did he show any sign of inexperience, and that came when he took a bad angle on a hard-hit ball that would become a double off the wall. Since being recalled from Triple-A on April 18, Valaika has already seen action at third base, shortstop and left field.
Was there worry in putting Valaika in the outfield for his debut against one of the National League’s hottest-hitting teams? Black didn’t seem too concerned.
"“He’s an athlete,” Black said. “These are the things where you’re sort of excited about it. You’re crossing your fingers a little bit because he’s never played it (left field) but you feel good about the player. We’ve seen the work, even going back to spring training. The routine play he’ll handle. Is he going to run a ball down in the gap? Maybe, because he’s an athlete. I’m not worried at all about him handling this because he’s a confident player. He has a mental approach to how he plays baseball that this doesn’t worry him.”"
Heading into Friday’s series opener in Arizona, Valaika is 4-for-9 at the plate in his limited time with the Rockies this season. That includes a 2-for-3 outing with an RBI on Thursday.
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Every team needs a player who can come off the bench and make an impact, in the field and at the plate. Last season, the Rockies had that in Descalso. This season, Valaika looks to be in line to fill that role.