Two years ago, Danny Valencia placed third in American League Rookie of the Year voting after hitting .311 with seven home runs and 40 RBI in 299 at-bats. Last season, he belted 15 home runs and led Minnesota with 72 RBI. In the midst of a disappointing performance for the Twins in 2012 – he is batting .198 in 34 games – the 27-year-old third baseman was traded on Sunday to Boston for 21-year-old Single-A outfielder Jeremias Pineda.
The Twins announced that Tsuyoshi Nishioka will be called up to replace Valencia on the active roster. The 28-year-old Nishioka – who signed a three-year, $9 million contract in 2011 that also has a$4 million team option or a $250,000 buyout in 2014 – was batting .245 with one home run, 24 RBI and a .610 OPS at Triple-A Rochester.
A 19th round draft pick out of the University of Miami in 2006, Valencia posted a .351 on-base percentage and a .448 slugging percentage to accompany his .311 average in 2010, but his numbers declined in 2011 and 2012. Though he belted 15 home runs and knocked in 72 last year, he batted .246 with a .294 OBP and a.383 slugging percentage.
Valencia was the team’s starting third baseman on opening day, but his struggles at the plate led the Twins to option him to Rochester. He was recalled when Trevor Plouffe landed on the 15-day disabled list and was batting .198 with a .212 OBP and a .522 OPS in 126 at-bats for the Twins. He owned a .250 average with seven home runs, 37 RBI and a .688 OPS in 268 at-bats at Rochester.
The 25-year-old Plouffe, who has 19 home runs and a .855 OPS this season, will become Minnesota’s primary third baseman when he is activated from the 15-day disabled list this week, according to MLB.com.
Upon acquiring Valencia, Boston optioned him to Triple-A Pawtucket. He gives the Red Sox additional third base depth. Veteran Andy LaRoche is currently Pawtucket’s starting third baseman. Will Middlebrooks, a 23-year-old rookie who was considered the organization’s top overall prospect entering the season, is entrenched at third base for the Red Sox.
Pineda was signed by the Red Sox as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2011. He has never played above the Gulf Coast League, and at 21 he is older than typical GCL prospects, most of whom are 18 and 19. In 133 at-bats, he was hitting .421 with no home runs, 22 RBI and 14 stolen bases. A switch-hitter, Pineda can play all three outfield positions. He will begin his Twins career with the club’s Gulf Coast League affiliate.