George Valera already had been in the midst of a torrid season at the plate, but the Class A Short Season Scrappers slugger upped that production to new career heights Tuesday.Cleveland's No. 5 prospect went 4-for-5 with a homer and a professional-best six RBIs in Mahoning Valley's 13-9 loss to
George Valera already had been in the midst of a torrid season at the plate, but the Class A Short Season Scrappers slugger upped that production to new career heights Tuesday.
Cleveland's No. 5 prospect went 4-for-5 with a homer and a professional-best six RBIs in Mahoning Valley's 13-9 loss to State College at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
"I'm just being a little more patient and swinging at my pitches," Valera said. "I've been a little reckless at the plate lately and I've been trying to get better at that."
The lefty-hitting center fielder opened the scoring in the first inning when he lined a 2-0 pitch from right-hander Jeremy Randolph to center field for an RBI double. With righty Scott Politz on the mound in the third, Valera grounded a 1-0 pitch up the middle that drove in two more.
"In those situations when I have runners on, I'm trying to do damage and help my team win," he said. "So if I get a pitch in the zone that I think I could drive somewhere, I'll do my best and hit it as hard as I can."
The next pitch Valera saw from Politz in the fifth was smacked over the wall in right-center for a three-run homer.
"I was looking for a fastball, because I don't think there was a runner on first base," he said, "So I thought they were gonna pitch around [me] just because of my first two at-bats, so I was looking for a fastball that first pitch and I got what I was looking for."
Valera added a line-drive single to left in the ninth against lefty Fabian Blanco and finished a triple shy of the cycle.
Gameday box score
The 18-year-old had seven RBIs in nine New York-Penn League games going into Tuesday's contest. Valera raised his average to .333 with three dingers, tied with Vermont's Jordan Diaz and Aberdeen's Jaylen Ferguson for the circuit lead, and a league-high 13 RBIs.
The Queens, New York, native was raised in the Bronx and moved to San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic -- his father's hometown -- at age 13. He signed with Cleveland on July 2, 2017 about three years later.
"It was a little tough for me at first," Valera said of his unique move, "just because I had to leave my brother and my sister and my close family members, my friends."
Valera kept to himself a lot in the Dominican Republic."I didn't know as much Spanish as I do now," he said, "I just understood it a lot."
But the move ended up being one of the best things that ever happened to him.
"Now I get to know what it feels like, the best of both worlds ... understanding the American players, understanding the Dominican players and having a connection with them," Valera said.
Though 5-foot-10, 160-pound hurler has been looking forward to Mahoning Valley's trips to New York City to play against Brooklyn and Staten Island, so he can see some close friends and family members.
Valera played six games last season in the Rookie-level Arizona League, going 6-for-18 with a homer, a double and six RBIs before he broke his hamate bone and missed the rest of the year.
"After coming back from rehab, I was trying to make more contact with the ball," Valera said. "Because I know if I make contact, I'm gonna hit it hard somewhere. I'm not really trying to do too much or go too hard or overswing. I know if I put the barrel on the ball, I'll be just fine."
Brylie Ware collected four RBIs and Stanley Espinal racked up three hits, three runs and two RBIs as the Spikes rallied to victory.
Shlomo Sprung is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @sprungonsports</a