Behind on depth chart, Valentin impresses

Infielder likely to begin season for Phillies at Triple-A Lehigh Valley

Behind on depth chart, Valentin impresses

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Jesmuel Valentin has flown under the radar this spring because he is a second baseman in camp along with Cesar Hernandez and Scott Kingery.

Hernandez is the big league second baseman. Kingery is the No. 7 second-base prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline.

But Valentin, 22, has played pretty well, too. He opened camp behind the others because of a dislocated shoulder, which he sustained in the Caribbean Series. But Valentin went 1-for-2 with a double, two RBIs and a walk in Thursday's 8-8 tie with the Blue Jays in a Grapefruit League game at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.

Valentin, who is the son of former big leaguer Jose Valentin, is batting .250 with an .833 OPS in nine spring plate appearances.

"Lately, I'm finding my groove after the shoulder injury," Valentin said. "It was a couple days without seeing live pitching. I played the last three days in a row, so I'm feeling a groove and my timing."

Valentin is expected to open the season in Triple-A Lehigh Valley, but the Phillies are keeping an open mind in regard to his future. If he is going to be a utility infielder at some point, he will have to get more time at other spots.

Valentin signed as a shortstop and he has played 87 games there in the Minor Leagues, but he's been there sparingly since the Phils acquired him in a July 2014 trade with the Dodgers.

"Right now, it's a little bit difficult having played second base every day for the past three years," Valentin said. "So it's a little bit different of a position. You have to move more. The throw is going to be a little bit longer. But I'm trying to work every day there so I can manage myself. Every single time they need me to do a job there, I will be ready."

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin has been impressed with Valentin.

"He showed really good baserunning instincts, and I think that's the way he was advertised; he's got real good instincts on the basepaths," Mackanin said. "So far, he looks OK at shortstop. It looks to me like he's got enough arm. I'd have to see him longer. I just like his instincts and his energy.

"We have to make sure we're covered if something happened to Freddy [Galvis], or if [top prospect J.P.] Crawford isn't ready at a certain time, we have to have coverage. He's on the roster. We want to see if he can play more than second base."

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.