He isn’t a household name, but the Rockies secret weapon heading into the 2018 season is utility man Pat Valaika.
The Colorado Rockies took a chance when they selected Pat Valaika with the 259th pick, and in 9th round, in the MLB’s 2013 Amateur Draft. Just like every draft pick, there is a risk that he may not succeed or the player won’t have what it takes to play in the major leagues.
The most notable name to be selected in the ninth round is Fred McGriff, and that’s not saying either of the two players are similar, but players have been selected in the later rounds and gone on to have successful major league careers. You have to have that “it” factor, and the Rockies have that in Valaika.
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Valaika made his MLB debut on September 6 as one of the Rockies September call-ups in 2016. He would get just 19 at bats in the month of September and finished his first season with just five hits, one home run, and two RBI’s. It wasn’t till last season when Valaika really broke out and became the Rockies best bat off the bench. In 182 at bats last season, Valaika went deep 13 times and was ninth on the team in RBI’s with 40. Valaika also broke a record, as he was the first major league rookie to collect over 16 RBI’s as a pinch-hitter.
Another major trait that Valaika possesses is the “clutch” gene. Not all baseball players have it, but the ones who do are the ones who usually come up in the big moments of ball games. During last season, Valaika had a .351 batting average when hitting in close ball games, according to Baseball Reference.
He also drove in eight runs and hit four home runs in those clutch moments when the game mattered most. Guys who can come off the bench cold are hard to come by, but it’s something Valaika has shown he can thrive in throughout his first couple major league seasons.
Valaika’s role on the team this year is early similar to that of last year. When the team needs a bat off the bench, he’ll be the first guy up. When the team is playing a day game after a night game, expect Valaika to be in the lineup the next day. Another one of the great traits of Valaika’s game is his ability to play numerous positions. He has the ability to play all infield positions and has even appeared in five MLB games as a left fielder. That versatility is what’s going to allow Valaika to get a ton of playing time and it’s something the Rockies are fortunate enough to have.
So, as the Rockies embark on what looks to be another promising season, just keep your eyes and ears peeled for the name Pat Valaika. He might just become a household name before you know it.