Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Danny Valencia: Avoiding the Sophomore Slump

Danny Valencia burst on the scene last year in his freshman campaign with the Minnesota Twins. His outstanding season lead him to a third place finish in the American League Rookie of the Year balloting.

There are many challenges that can face a player entering their second season in the major leagues. Teams are more familiar with the player, pitchers are aware of weaknesses in a batter's swing, and overall scouting of a player can be increased. For many players this can lead to what experts call "The Sophomore Slump." 

There are three areas that Valencia has to address in order to have a successful sophomore season.

Mental Challenges
There are going to be mental challenges throughout an athletes career. When an athlete has success in their rookie season there can be many things that get in the way of success the following season. From pitch to pitch, baseball players always have adjustments that need to be made at the plate. There can be major adjustments that need to be made or just minor tweaks to fix a flaw. There can also be defensive blunders on the field that can impact a player's focus in the batter's box. The best player's can fight through these mental challenges and become a stronger player.

Weakness in a batter's swing
The are weak spots in almost every player's swing. A player's ability to overcome these weaknesses can help him to break out of slumps. For Valencia there are some clear holes in the lower portion of his swing. Low and inside is the one very cold spot that pitcher might focus on for next season. If Valencia is going to be a slump breaker in 2011, he will need to improve these below average areas in his swing.
Defensive Flaws
In his first season with the Twins, Valencia's defensive statistics were off the charts. It might be hard for him to keep these numbers in his first full season at the hot corner. Out of all 3B in the American League, Valencia ranked fifth in fielding percentage in 2010. He will have plenty of chances in 2011 so the Twins will have many views of their up-and-coming third baseman. Defense is always a high priority for the Twins and Valenica will need to avoid any set backs in his fielding during his second season. Valencia can keep his sophomore slump away by avoiding these defensive flaws. 

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