Valerio keeps working to master the art of catching
The Cleveland Indians’ farm system is full of potential behind the plate, but catcher Charlie Valerio knows his hard work will pay off in the end.
The 21-year-old catcher is presently in his third season with the organization and his first year with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. The Indians signed Valerio as a free agent in 2010 out of the Dominican Republic as an offensive prospect with an advanced bat.
Valerio hit .276 with four home runs, 37 RBIs, 37 walks and 34 strikeouts with the DSL Indians in 2010 and .272 with five home runs, 21 RBIs, 20 walks and 30 strikeouts through 40 games with the AZL Indians in 2011. Now, the 6’0” 200-pound switch-hitter is batting .294 with five home runs, 35 RBIs, 21 walks and 43 strikeouts with the Scrappers.
Valerio was selected to the 2012 New York-Penn League All-Star Game and has been the starting catcher for the Scrappers this year as his numbers have improved by each month this season.
Now, Valerio says he’s feeling strong about his game. “I feel good,” he said. “My defense is much better than last year. I can hit a lot better, my defense is better. Every day I’m working.”
Valerio also continues to work on his English as he adapts to life in the minor leagues. “I want to learn more English, because I have to talk to my manger, my other teammates and my pitcher,” he explained. “It’s important for me.”
Lucky for Valerio, he’s got some help from his battery mate in mastering the English language. Scrappers’ right-hander Luis DeJesus and Valerio have played together since their days in Arizona rookie ball, and the two have formed a strong bond as DeJesus serves as an interpreter for Valerio.
“I feel very happy because Luis is my teammate,” Valerio said. “I played with him in the rookie league last year and I got comfortable with him. We’ve got a good connection.”
Both battery mates have had good seasons with the Scrappers and hope to advance through the system together.
Valerio says his biggest goal is to simply move up. “My goal is to play at the next level,” he said. “Lake County or Carolina. I play hard every day. I’m working hard because I want to play at the next level.”
Scrappers’ manager Ted Kubiak has also been a vital component in Valerio’s progression and motivation to ascend as quickly as possible.
“I feel very happy with Ted,” Valerio said. “He’s a good manager, a good teacher. He’s like a father to me. He has a lot of hope in me.”
Kubiak returns the praise for the young catcher, as he sees a lot of potential in Valerio.
“Charlie is very impressive,” Kubiak said. “For a young guy and a catcher, he’s very athletic, very agile, and he’s done a great job of blocking balls.”
Kubiak has also been impressed and encouraged by Valerio’s passion and devotion to the game. “His intensity and his joy of playing the game is almost unmatched. He’s pretty special in that sense. He swings the bat very well, he’s hit very good for us left and right. I think there’s a bright future there.”
The Scrappers’ manager is unable to pick one attribute of Valerio’s he likes the most because the catcher can do it all. “He’s just good at everything right now,” Kubiak praised. “I’ve seen a lot of guys come through here, and he’s improved tremendously since spring training. He’s just gotten better and better."
Since Valerio has found success hitting and blocking balls behind the dish, he’s now working on calling the game. Kubiak notes that Valerio has a good feel for calling games and that it can hardly be considered a downside.
“Everybody at this level is trying to learn the game,” Kubiak noted. “They’re all trying to call pitches and take charge of pitchers.”
The Indians’ organization boasts a number of promising young catchers, but Valerio is willing to put in the time and effort necessary to compete. He’s still adapting to life in the minor leagues, but he’s already mastering the game behind the plate.
Stephanie is a crime and general assignment reporter for The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio. She’s an alumna of Cleveland State University with a degree in Journalism and Promotional Communication. You can follow her on Twitter @7thInningSteph.
Luke Carlin players, competent but not true prospects, may need to be added.
I'm a proponent of "force-feeding" to some extent.
It never worked for Alvin Dark back in the old days, but he had the wrong players.
Kids see the next level or two, and know what to work on.
It fundamentally alters their approach.
Move everybody up and lose minor league games in order to win in three or four years in Cleveland. (Maybe fewer yrs.)
Kids can handle more than most think, and it's usually not the mental side of baseball that stops great prospects.
Excellent writing by Stephanie Metzger.