The Padres inked the massive Valdez—he’s much closer to 245 than his listed 221 pounds on a towering 6’8” frame —as a late-blooming 20-year-old from the Dominican Republic. The long levers and XXL body give issue repeating his delivery, and he works with a fairly stiff mechanics. Despite this, the big man filled the zone with filth in my April viewing.
Valdez’ fastball is about as big as he is, coming in at a lively 96-to-98 mph. It rides up in the zone and features late tailing action when he hits a spot in the lower third. There’s natural angle from his height, and despite extreme tilt to clear an efforty 3/4’s arm slot, the downhill action makes it tough for hitters to square. The command is below average, without the athleticism to hint at much change for progression–his fastball projects to play as a 55-grade future pitch despite his 70-grade raw velocity. A 81-to-84 mph slider shows the signs of being an out pitch, and Valdez has a good feel to throw it both early and late in counts. He can steal a surprise strike with the breaking ball or snap off a wipeout pitch down and out of the zone for a strikeout when he gets to two strikes.
He’s dominant in his best sequences, but has battled wildness nearly as often this season. Valdez has struck out 13 hitters in his 13 innings of work, but also walked 11 in that span. The lack of control makes him unlikely to profile as a high-leverage reliever, and the likely ceiling is closer to that of a middle reliever with high strikeout and walk totals.