Few teams can match the international scouting track presence of the Mariners.
And nearly six years ago, in a span of three days in August, the Mariners landed two promising young Latin American middle infielders: Asdrubal Cabrera and Luis Valbuena. The Mariners have since traded both players to the Indians, and one scout who watched Valbuena play this winter in the Venezuelan League said Cabrera immediately came to mind.
"He going to be like Asdrubal Cabrera," said one scout who saw Valbuena this winter. "He’s the same type of player. He’s very acrobatic, he’s slick, he can do a lot of things in the field and he knows how to use his arm—he’s going to be a clone of Cabrera."
Others are more mixed on the comparison, noting that the 5-foot-10, 200-pound Valbuena is more physical than Cabrera, who is six feet, 170 pounds. Still, the superficial similarities are a bit unusual.
Cabrera: Nov. 13, 1985 in Puerto la Cruz, Venezuela
Valbuena: Nov. 30, 1985 in Caja Seca, Venezuela
Cabrera: Aug. 26, 2002 (Mariners, by Emilio Carrasquel)
Valbuena: Aug. 29, 2002 (Mariners, by Emilio Carrasquel)
Cabrera: 2003, Venezuelan Summer League
Valbuena: 2003, Venezuelan Summer League
Cabrera: 2006, to Cleveland
Valbuena: 2008, to Cleveland
Valbuena and Cabrera formed the Mariners’ middle infield combination in the VSL in 2003, with Cabrera handling shortstop and Valbuena slotting in at second base. The Mariners, as they did with many of their prospects under Seattle’s previous front-office management, pushed Cabrera and Valbuena through the system quickly, with Cabrera climbing through the system like a ring-tailed lemur
Half way through the 2006 season, with a 20-year-old Cabrera struggling to a .236/.323/.360 line in 60 games with Triple-A Tacoma, the Mariners traded Cabrera to Cleveland
for Eduardo Perez. In 2008, Valbuena found success repeating Double-A as a 22-year-old, hitting .304/.381/.483 in 70 games for West Tenn before a promotion to Triple-A, where he hit .302/.383/.373 in 58 games, and then to the majors for a brief stint before shipping off to the Indians
in an offseason trade.
Playing for Lara in Venezuela this winter, Valbuena hit .291/.358/.504 in 49 games, showing his usual sound approach at the plate.
"He was everything that our scouts said he was," Indians farm director Ross Atkins said. "He was driving the ball, he was displaying consistent defense. He’s a very strong, very athletic, well-rounded player that has some positive offensive potential, and someone we’re very encouraged about."
Valbuena is an above-average defensive second baseman, sporting a 55 arm on the 20-80 scouting scale that is enhanced by a quick release and good accuracy. With the Indians’ offseason acquisition of Mark DeRosa, Valbuena it seems likely that Valbuena will begin the season in Triple-A Columbus.
"He has exceptional on-base ability with the ability to drive the ball; that’s what we look for in hitters," Atkins said.