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12/06/07 11:58 AM ET
Reds acquire Valenzuela in Rule 5 Draft
Club plucks 23-year-old righty from Braves organization
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Despite all of the scouting and time evaluating players, selecting someone in the Rule 5 Draft is often a crapshoot.
The Reds were fortunate to score two productive players last year in Josh Hamilton and Jared Burton; both had nice 2007 seasons. In this year's Rule 5 selection, they're hoping for a similar outcome in right-handed pitcher Sergio Valenzuela.
By taking Valenzuela from the Braves organization on Thursday, the Reds had to look past the 23-year-old's numbers, because they weren't very good. He was 1-3 with a 7.00 ERA in 32 games, including five starts, at high Class A Rome and Double-A Myrtle Beach.
"Winter ball pretty much finalized it for me," said J. Harrison, the Reds' director of pro scouting. "One of our good scouts out west got a chance to see him. I saw him in a trip over to Mexico as well. It was a bullpen-type deal and he caught my attention on some of the things he did with his delivery and his strength. He looked like a guy that was underdeveloped that had some room for growth."
Harrison later dispatched scout Rex De La Nuez to track Valenzuela as a starter in Mexican Winter League games. The Reds liked the pitcher's mid-90s fastball and above average changeup and think he has an average slider.
"We got a chance to do some homework on him," Harrison said. "He's still got some development left. He's a guy we think can compete, contribute and eventually evolve into a starter-type for us. That's an area we need to continue, to stockpile as many starters as we can."
The Reds paid $50,000 to select Valenzuela. He must remain on the club's 25-man roster all season or be offered back to the Braves for $25,000. If he makes Cincinnati's roster out of Spring Training, he'd likely slot into the bullpen as a long or middle reliever. But he is projected long-term as a starter.
Valenzuela is not related to Fernando Valenzuela, although he did grow up in the same region of Mexico as the former Dodgers pitcher.
"We saw a little bit cleaner delivery, but we hope he has the same type of makeup," Harrison said. "Some kids come along late, and we hope this is an example of that. We've heard nothing but good things. We like to treat it like stocks sometimes and hope you can catch them good when they're down in terms of his numbers."
Cincinnati also lost a player to the Rule 5 Draft in pitcher Carlos Guevara. The right-hander was picked by the Marlins and then traded to the Padres. Guevara was 1-2 with a 2.32 ERA in 51 relief appearances last season with Double-A Chattanooga.
In the Triple-A phase, the Reds took catcher Juan Apodaca from the Dodgers and traded him to the Red Sox for cash considerations. The Reds also lost right-handed pitcher Jose Rojas to the A's organization. Rojas pitched at Class A Dayton and Sarasota last season.