Right-hander Phillips Valdez was on the radar among starters who are building innings in the Nationals organization. The Dominican product moved from the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League to the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2013.
Valdez has a solid frame at 6-foot-2 and 160 lbs., and offers a mid-90s fastball with a changeup and a slurvy breaking pitch. In 2014, he split time between short-season Single-A Auburn and low Single-A Hagerstown.
In 2015, he went from Hagerstown to high Single-A Potomac. That is where P-Nats manager Tripp Keister got to see what he had. Then this season, Valdez made another move to Double-A Harrisburg after 11 starts for Keister’s club.
“He did. He advanced,” Keister told me last month at Nats Park. “He finished with us last year and then started with us this year. He advanced, I believe, pretty quickly. He went up before the All-Star break. He’s 93 to 95 mph in that range, got tremendous life on his fastball.
“His best secondary pitch is probably his changeup. He’s really working on his curve, slider. I think it’s more of an in-between, more of a slurvy-type breaking ball. He’s really been working on it. Pounds the strike zone with tremendous sink and gets a lot of ground balls.”
Valdez, 24, is “getting close” to having the slurve breaking pitch become his out pitch, according to Nationals pitching coordinator Paul Menhart. The one thing Valdez needs to do is “repeat mechanics,” common with all pitchers that advance to the next level.
Valdez finished 12-7 with a 4.24 ERA in 27 starts between the two teams. With Harrisburg, Valdez made 16 starts, going 6-4 with a 4.62 ERA. He had 57 strikeouts with 36 walks. In seven of his final 10 starts for the Senators, he allowed two earned runs or less.
Repeating his delivery over and over will help to reduce those 36 walks and make the slurve what he wants it to be.