At the age of 25, Pat Valaika has already shown his worth to the Colorado Rockies just through his success in pinch-hitting situations. This kid may be one of the best “clutch guys” the Rockies could have on the Opening Day roster. With the team looking to get deeper into the postseason in 2018, they need Valaika on the bench and able to be put in during crucial situations.
Valaika has only been playing in the big leagues for a little more than a year. His 2016 season was pretty short with the Rockies with just 19 plate appearances, but it was 2017 when he made a splash … and many were surprised by it. It seems to me that 2017 was the year Bud Black put his faith into Valaika. He played in 110 games with 195 plate appearances. This lead to him having 40 hits, 13 home runs, 47 RBI, and a .258 batting average.
As Thomas Harding of MLB.com pointed out in this article, Valaika led MLB pinch-hitters last season with 12 runs, eight doubles and 12 extra-base hits. He also tied for the top spot in home runs with four and drove in 16 runs as a pinch-hitter, the most for a rookie since 1958.
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Don’t forget he also came through during the postseason. He hit a nice double in the Wild Card loss against Arizona.
Yes, Valaika has shown that he come into a situation at any moment and perform. This is good for a guy who is still trying to show his worth to an organization and find a regular spot to contribute.
Over his time with the Rockies thus far, you can tell that Valaika is a strong utility guy. He has played 25 games at third base, 24 at shortstop, 13 at second base, five at first base and five in left field. This is one of the guys who the Rockies should platoon in order to have a dependable person on the field, no matter the position.
Looking over his stats, he has done extremely well at first base (*wink wink*) in limited opportunities. Now I’m not saying that Valaika will solve the first base dilemma but there’s a chance he could make things better and easier for the Rockies during some games there this season.
What I’m Getting At
Pat Valaika is needed this season. The Rockies need someone like him if they want to continue down the route they’re taking. In other words, in a bottom of the ninth situation when you have runners on and the game is tied, if I’m Bud Black, I’m bringing Valaika in to hit.
The Rockies have to put their trust in the youth movement and Valaika is a big part of the movement. Here’s another example, Valaika is the equivalent to what Kiké Hernandez is to the Dodgers. In other words, he won’t start all the time, but when he does, you know it’s a critical situation that the team wants to succeed in.
Having Pat Valaika in Colorado’s arsenal is something teams underestimated last season. This year, I believe he’ll keep coming through in the big moments.