Danny Valencia, starting third baseman since 2010, demoted to Triple-A by Twins

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As soon as the Twins called up Brian Dozier to start at shortstop and shifted Jamey Carroll into a utility man role it was clear that Danny Valencia and Alexi Casilla were on some very thin ice.

Carroll has started each of the past three games at second base, but apparently that was due mostly to Casilla being limited by a shoulder injury and instead Valencia is the one on the chopping block after serving as Minnesota’s starting third baseman since mid-2010. Last night the Twins demoted him to Triple-A.

Valencia was never a top prospect and a modest minor-league track record made it obvious that his strong half-season debut was largely a fluke, but he’s declined even further than expected since then both offensively and defensively. He’s played 266 games in the majors and hit just .262 with a .699 OPS, which would be poor production from a shortstop or a catcher and is downright awful for a third baseman who’s mediocre defensively on a good day.

On the other hand he’s 27 years old with more than 1,000 plate appearances in the majors, so a demotion to Triple-A furthering his development seems like wishful thinking. Valencia is what he is at this point, and that’s simply not a quality regular because he can’t hit right-handed pitching. With that said, he’s a career .325 hitter with an .859 OPS against left-handers and that type of production certainly has a place on a major-league roster if used correctly.

Francisco Liriano is at a career crossroads five months from free agency and Valencia may beat him out the door if the Twins can find a taker willing to trade even a mid-level prospect for him. In the meantime Minnesota will turn to some combination of Carroll, Casilla, and Trevor Plouffe at third base, which isn’t likely to be much of an upgrade.