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Valdez refining skills in D.R.


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Valdez refining skills in D.R.

By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com



In his first 12 Winter League games, Wilson Valdez is hitting .283 (13-for-46) with four RBIs, one double and one triple. (James A. Finley/AP)



MIAMI -- Next season, the Marlins will look at Wilson Valdez as a possible backup infield replacement for Andy Fox.

The 23-year-old Valdez showed marked improvement at Triple-A Albuquerque in 2003 and is refining his skills playing for Gigantes Del Cibao in the Dominican Winter League.


"Defensively, he is outstanding," said Jim Fleming, the team's vice president for player development and scouting. "He has very sure hands and a strong arm."


The mistakes he is making now are typical for young players. Many are self-induced and he continues his development.


In his first 12 Winter League games, Valdez is hitting .283 (13-for-46) with four RBIs, one double and one triple.


Once his bat is Major League ready, Valdez has the potential to be a quality everyday player.


A natural shortstop, Valdez can also play second base. In fact, had the Marlins not re-signed All-Star Luis Castillo, Valdez would have been considered as a young replacement.


"He has some quickness to his bat, but he's not a big producer," Fleming said.


At 5-foot-11, 160 pounds, Valdez doesn't have much power. He is basically a singles hitter who will deliver a few doubles. On the bases, he has better than average speed but isn't a big threat to run.


The team is encouraged that the right-handed-hitting Valdez has made improvements like going with the pitch. He will take an outside pitch to right field.


The Marlins went with veterans Mike Mordecai and Fox as their backup infielders the past two seasons.


Mordecai re-signed with the Marlins and Fox recently agreed to a minor league contract with the Rangers.


Valdez, who turns 24 in May, can play three positions, including third base.


Signed as a non-drafted free agent by the Expos in 1997, Valdez struggled in his early minor league seasons. The Marlins claimed him off waivers in 2002.


A promising prospect at the time he was drafted, Fleming said Valdez is getting to the point of being big-league ready.


"Last year, mentally he made a big jump," Fleming said. "He is very hard on himself. But he didn't carry his [offensive struggles] to the field with him. He improved offensively. He will always be a singles guy."


Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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