"Merkin Valdez has reached the stage where his production must begin to match his potential.
Greatness has been predicted for Valdez since the Giants obtained him and left-hander Damian Moss for right-hander Russ Ortiz in December 2002. Although Ortiz won 77 games in five seasons for the Giants, Valdez, with his breathtaking fastball, seemed capable of more.
Valdez remains the organization's most tantalizing pitching prospect. Yet it's worth remembering that Baseball America, the industry's arbiter of minor league talent, ranked Valdez ahead of Matt Cain as the Giants' top prospect as recently as 2004...
...A long shot to make the Giants' opening-day roster, Valdez likely will begin the season in Triple-A Fresno's rotation. At 24, he still has time to fulfill his promise.
``It's going to be a good year to push him and evaluate him,'' Giants Manager Felipe Alou said.
Moreover, the success of contemporaries such as Cain and Noah Lowry, 25, motivates Valdez to follow their path. ``It's something exciting,'' Valdez said. ``I'm young, too.''
Valdez is also far from polished. After six seasons in the minors, he still lacks ideal control of his fastball, which travels in the mid-90 mph range. Nor has he refined his off-speed pitches, such as his change-up. ``Sometimes it's up, you know?'' Valdez said.
With his gangly 6-foot-3, 220-pound stature, Valdez has struggled to maintain a consistent pitching delivery, the source of many of his flaws. ``There's always a tweak for him to get him right,'' Tidrow said."