With Oakland in 2016, Danny Valencia fell off the fiery pace he had in an abbreviated 2015 season, with significant drops in homer rate, hard contact and RBI. He sustained many peripherals hinting at the once intriguing upside he had earlier this decade and has shown power, compared to his light-hitting past. Unfortunately, his batting average and on-base percentage since 2014 look fluky because he's had walk rates of just 7.7 and 7.9 percent in the last two years. Last year's .348 BABIP was a career high -- suspect because of the drop-off in hard contact, despite his boost in line drives. Perhaps going to the opposite field more often has sustained his ability to keep those high clips. Valencia, still only has moderate power, he swung and missed a career-high 12.0 percent of the time last year, and still struggles to reach the acceptable 80.0 percent threshold for contact rate. His role won't change much following an offseason move to Seattle.
Valencia, who went 2-for-4 with an RBI single and run in Thursday's Cactus League win over the Giants, is now the everyday first baseman with the demotion of Dan Vogelbach to Triple-A Tacoma, Ryan Divish of The Seattle Times reports. Valencia was originally slated to be the right-handed side of a platoon with Vogelbach, but he'll now have an opportunity for a full workload. He's rightfully earned a reputation as a lefty masher throughout his career, slashing .321/.373/.500 with a .377 wOBA and 32 percent hard contact rate against southpaws. While his numbers against right-handers come nowhere close, they've notably improved the last two seasons, as he's posted respective averages of .285 and .275 over that span. While he's struggled overall this spring (.208 average over 53 at-bats), Valencia brings a body of work at the major league level that Vogelbach doesn't yet possess. "Danny has a real track record," general manager Jerry Dipoto said. "Over the last three seasons he's really hit, both righties and lefties. We talked about that as one of his main attractions. The versatility. He's pounded the lefties and over the last couple years he's hit the righties as well. He's transitioned to first quite well. He can really throw for a first baseman and here over the last week's he's actually started to pick it up., the barrel contact, he's starting to swing the bat better."
Valencia went 1-for-2 with a double, two walks and two runs in Sunday's 13-2 Cactus League win over the Padres. The veteran, expected to platoon with Dan Vogelbach at first this season, was on base early and often in Sunday's blowout win. Valencia has rightfully earned a reputation as a lefty masher in his career, but has become a better all-around hitter the last two seasons. The 32-year-old has compiled respective averages of .285 and .275 against right-handed pitching over the 2015 and 2016 campaigns, along with a combined 23 homers and 71 RBI.
Valencia, who's primarily expected to platoon at first base with rookie Dan Vogelbach this season, got in work at third base Tuesday, Greg Johns of MLB.com reports. The veteran has played third base more than any other position in his career, but that role is fully in Kyle Seager's possession in Seattle. While manager Scott Servais wants to give Valencia some work at his previous position as a contigency plan-- and perhaps in anticipation of some spot starts when Seager rests during the coming season -- the main priority remains getting him acclimated at first. "He'll probably be mostly at first throughout the spring," Servais said. "He will play a day or two at third and get some time in the outfield, but we want to get him comfortable there at first."
Valencia could potentially see time at three different positions in 2017 while also receiving starts against either handedness of pitcher, Greg Johns of MLB.com reports. "Danny is there as a veteran guy who effectively can play every day," (general manager Jerry) Dipoto said. "He's been excellent against left-hand pitching. He's also been very good against righties for the last couple of years, and we're confident that first base will be an easy transition for him defensively." The veteran lefty masher landed in Seattle as the result of one of several trades swung by general manager Jerry Dipoto this offseason, and his positional versatility is likely be exploited by his new team. Valencia is expected to primarily be part of a first-base platoon with rookie Daniel Vogelbach, but he could also see time at both right field and third base. The 32-year-old's career .321/.373/.500 line in 845 plate appearances against lefties essentially guarantees him a spot in the lineup any time the Mariners face that handedness, but his improved play against righties the last two seasons could earn him additional starts. While the team is excited about Vogelbach's potential, Valencia's veteran savvy and lively bat make for a great insurance policy. For his part, Valencia is pledging to keep himself ready and take on the mindset of an everyday starter. "I feel like that (first base) is most likely to be my primary position here, so I'll work hard just like I would if I was playing every day at third or every day in right or wherever it is," he said. "I take it seriously. I take a lot of pride in being a pretty good defensive player. I think last year my hamstring injury hurt me a little bit moving around at third base, but this year I'm fully healthy and I've had a really good offseason. I'm just excited about getting going."
Valencia agreed to a one-year, $5.5 million deal with the Mariners on Friday, avoiding arbitration, FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman reports. He was traded from Oakland to Seattle earlier this offseason in a deal that netted the A's right-hander Paul Blackburn. Valencia figures to open the season on the short side of a first base platoon with Dan Vogelbach.