Valdez clubs trifecta for Space Cowboys
Enmanuel Valdez has been with Triple-A Sugar Land for exactly one week, but he's already established a reputation in his new clubhouse -- and a legendary one at that. After notching a multihomer game in his debut, the Astros infield prospect clubbed three home runs for the first time in
Enmanuel Valdez has been with Triple-A Sugar Land for exactly one week, but he's already established a reputation in his new clubhouse -- and a legendary one at that.
After notching a multihomer game in his debut, the Astros infield prospect clubbed three home runs for the first time in his career to power the Space Cowboys to a 10-4 victory over Round Rock at Dell Diamond on Wednesday.
"He is such a confident kid and a mature kid, he knows what he's capable of and his approach is so advanced for his age. Especially at this level," Space Cowboys hitting coach Rafael Pena said. "But when he got up here and hit two home runs in his first two Triple-A at-bats, the guys started joking around and calling him Enmanuel Ruth. Like, oh wow, look, we got Enmanuel Ruth. And then after his performance today, our group chat just kept going with that nickname.
"He's the real deal and what he's doing right now is just making him fit in really good here."
Valdez was only the third player in Sugar Land franchise history to record the milestone -- Jake Meyers and Jeremy Peña were the other two.
"I met him in 2018 and I've been working with him a lot since then," Pena said. "And for the outside world this might be surprising, but not to us. He hit 26 home runs in 98 games last season. This is who he is. And the more he plays, he's just becoming more mature and it shows every year. I think this year he just put it all together and he's absolutely locked in. What he's doing right now is incredible."
The 23-year-old didn't waste any time getting his power display underway Wednesday. He connected on a 1-2 offering with two outs in the opening frame, muscling it the other way over the wall in left field to get the Space Cowboys on the board. The solo blast was his third at the Minors' highest level.
After Jake Meyers led off the third with a tater to left, Valdez made it back-to-back jacks for Sugar Land. The lefty swinger sent the ball into the bullpen beyond the wall in right-center field. It was caught by reliever Enoli Paredes, who couldn't contain his excitement. The roundtripper put the Space Cowboys ahead, 5-2.
"They're both guys from the [Dominican Republic] and they've had a bond for some time now," Pena explained. "They actually went out to eat earlier today, and after the game, Paredes came into the dugout and said he had a feeling something was coming so he was ready for it. But they go back a while and they have some ties, and Paredes just kind of took Valdez under his wing ever since he got to Triple-A."
This is how we'll be celebrating all of our home runs from here on out pic.twitter.com/3kQoEOOiy8— Sugar Land Space Cowboys (@SLSpaceCowboys) June 16, 2022
In his next at-bat, Valdez showed his ability to flex to the entire field, pulling the ball to right and depositing it onto the berm beyond the right-field wall. The dinger came with two outs and the bases empty, but restored a three-run cushion for his club in the fifth.
"Just look at the approach. The first one was a fastball away, and he hit it the other way. Then he had a feeling they wouldn't throw him a fastball again, so he sat slider and got a hanging one that he crushed," Pena said. "The third time, he took a curveball that missed and then connected on a hanging changeup. He's just so mentally advanced with his approach and he's ahead of what's going on in the game."
It's been a steady climb through the Minor Leagues for the 2015 international free-agent signee. But this year, Valdez has already been posting career numbers across the board. The 2021 MiLB.com Organization All-Star sported a .357/.463/.649 slash line with 11 homers, 16 doubles, 45 RBIs and 40 runs scored across 44 games with Double-A Corpus Christi to open the season before being promoted to the Minors' highest level on June 7.
After mashing a pair of dingers in his debut with Sugar Land, Valdez has continued to rake -- going 11-for-29 with five homers, a triple, a double, eight RBIs and eight runs scored through his first seven games with the club.
Rob Terranova is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @RobTnova24.