Cubs Prospect Profile: Derniche Valdez
Ben Balder - USA Today Sports

Cubs Prospect Profile: Derniche Valdez

by - Senior Writer -

One thing the Cubs have always done a great job on and have garnered a reputation for is their ability to scout and sign International Prospects. This goes back to the Theo Epstein days, and it has carried over to the Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins regime. No matter the record or position the Cubs are in, they will always be one of the big players in the International market and continue to succeed in that market.

Looking at their current system, guys like Moises Ballesteros, Cristian Hernandez, and Jefferson Rojas are just some of the names that came from the International market, but there is another player who wasn't talked about much at all last season but will be talked about a whole lot more in 2024 in Derniche Valdez.

Signed to an entry-level contract via the 2023 International Free Agent market, the 17-year-old Valdez was given a $2.8 million dollar bonus, a large chunk of the Cubs International Pool bonus. He then landed in the Dominican Summer League, where, as expected, he took some lumps but still played well enough in the long run. Now, here we are, almost a year since that signing, and Valdez is a top 20 prospect who checks in at No. 16 ahead of the 2024 campaign.

At just 5-11 and 150 pounds, Valdez is tiny even for a shortstop so the Cubs know he will have to put on some weight. That didn't bother them when it came to signing him out of the Dominican Republic as the Cubs fell in love with his bat so much during the scouting process that they had to make an offer for him.

They made that offer, and without much hesitation, it was accepted, and Valdez became a Cub on January 15th, 2023. Before that, Valdez quickly blossomed into one of the game's best international prospects, and according to the Cubs vice president of international scouting, Louie Eljaua Valdez could grow into a Starlin Castro build and provide Hanley Ramirez production. If that is the production he is capable of, the Cubs would be all for it, as Castro was a great hitter during his time with the Cubs, while Ramirez had his moments during his MLB career.

Expected to be brought along slowly to the point where he may spend two seasons in the DSL before coming stateside, Valdez played in the DSL last season and was tested right from the start. Anytime you are a teenager going into a professional league, you know there will be struggles, but he did a great job limiting those struggles to put up a fairly solid season.

Valdez wasn't an everyday player, but he still played in half of his team's games (35) and did what he could do to help his team win. The .237 average wasn't great, but over his final 15 games Valdez was hitting north of .275, so something started to click. He also added six homers and 20 RBIs to display a bit more pop than some expected, which makes you wonder how much more power he can have once he adds to that frame.

Valdez may not have the overall upside of fellow international free agent Cristian Hernandez, but Valdez does have a more pure hitting ability, which could be why he is ranked higher than Hernandez right now. A right-handed hitter, he's very advanced at the plate with gifted hands that produce plenty of bat speed and enable him to manipulate the barrel well.

Once he makes contact, Valdez uses the entire field to his advantage, especially the gaps, to pick up extra-base hits. Instead of power, his primary focus right now is driving the ball from gap to gap with the promise of at least average power once he matures physically. You should start to see some of that power potential once he comes stateside, as that is when the strength training will fully be underway.

While the hitting tools appear advanced for his age, Valdez is a much slower runner than many expected him to be, and that could be a concern the higher he gets in the system. Lack of speed or not, Valdez still has the reaction time and instincts to remain at SS, but you have to wonder if a move to second or third is coming to accommodate the speed issue.

He may slow down even more when he gets stronger, but he should have enough quickness and solid arm strength to handle either second or third base. If he reaches his ceiling, he'll profile well offensively at any position. The Cubs are hoping for that, and I expect them to get more curious about his positions this season.

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