OTTAWA — Jorge Valdes doesn’t want to be anyone other than himself.
The 5-foot-10 centre fielder from Milton, Ont., went to the Toronto Blue Jays Canadian Futures Showcase with a goal to play his own style of baseball, highlighted by a blazing speed that makes him an intriguing lead-off hitter prospect.
Valdes accomplished just that without being concerned with trying to be something he’s not.
“You just have to play like yourself,” said the 17-year-old. “I am a short guy. I am not going to hit bombs left and right like Josh Naylor when he played back in this.
“You have to use your own talents. If it is speed, you have to show off that.”
The outfielder has plenty of it to spare, with a blazing 6.55 seconds in the 60 metre time that jumped out of the field in Ottawa Stadium and translated to a impressive total of seven stolen bases.
Valdes hopes to one day take his talents to the pros, but before accomplishing that he has committed to furthering his education and playing career in West Virginia.
“They play my style of ball,” said the outfielder. “They are not like every other school that just recruits big guys. They play the small ball like me, they steal bases, little gritty guys.”
Watching him play makes it easy to understand why he was nicknamed “The Cuban Flash” by his teammates, as he is always a threat when on base and has exceptional range on defence.
Valdes also defies the old saying that “You can’t teach speed”, at least partially.
“You have to be naturally fast, but you can shave some time off,” said the speedster, pointing to training with Connor Moro, and the Ontario Blue Jays, to make fast even faster.
“He has always been an explosive kid. He can jump and do a backflip in the air and land on his feet,” said Morro, Director of Player Development with the OBJ.
What stands out about the most though is his work ethic.
“He shows the desire every day, it’s consistent with him,” Morro said. “He is just getting his work done day by day pounding the rock and eventually it comes through.
“His level of consistency has always been there.”
You can sense a focus that is beyond his 17 years of age when talking to the young speedster.
He says he developed that over time by playing other sports like bowling, where he won the regionals in Ontario in 2020 and qualifying for the national championship in Calgary that was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
His bowling skills and baseball skillset led to some obvious comparisons to Mookie Betts.
“You have to adjust quickly to be successful in the game,” said the amateur bowler about how the two games overlap.
“You have to trust yourself because in bowling you can have a bad game and shoot 165 and in the next one you can come back and shoot 270 or 280. It teaches you to stay in the competition and never give up”.
Valdes indeed never gives up and always finds a way to reach base. And when he does, it’s never just one. He had five hits and four walks in four games at the showcase, to go along his seven stolen bases, in only five games.
The value he brings to his teams go beyond the field.
“All his teammates love him,” said his coach at the OBJ. “He seems to always be in on the joking. When we are away from practice, or on the bus, but as soon as we step into the lines he is always ready to go.”
Valdes ranks eighth in the nation in the Class of 2024 according to Prep Baseball Report, but that does not mean he is satisfied.
“I believe I could be number one,” added the centre fielder who said that two years ago he wasn’t even featured in the top 250 rankings.