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Better Know a Dodger . . . Wilson Valdez

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With an off-day on Thursday, and a big series coming up this weekend against the Giants, it felt like the right time to begin introducing our readers to the new members of the 2007 Los Angeles Dodgers. So, with apologies to Stephen Colbert, below is Part One of our 436-Part Series, "Better Know a Dodger". And who better to start with than perhaps the most anonymous of Dodgers, shortstop Wilson Valdez.

Not to be confused with former Dodger pitcher Wilson Alvarez, Wilson Antonio Valdez was born May 20, 1978 in the Peravia province of the Dominican Republic in the small town of Nizao (pop. 22,000). Nearby Bani, the capital city of the Peravia province, is the birthplace of such major league stars as Miguel Tejada, Mario Soto, and (ahem) Rafael Landestoy. Valdez' mother, Juana, raised Wilson and his 8 siblings in a tiny 2-bedroom house in Nizao. Wilson's father, Angel, died of lung cancer when Wilson was 13.

Wilson Valdez has two nicknames: "El Gato" (The Cat), and "Gatito" (Kitten). One assumes he has procured these nicknames as a result of his cat-like reflexes, both as a fielder and on the basepaths. It is not known whether Valdez subscribes to any cat-related periodicals.

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A quick look at the ebays reveals a wide variety of Wilson Valdez baseball cards available for purchase. Also available is a mini autographed bat from El Gato's stint in Seattle ($9.99! Buy it Now!!).

Wilson Valdez will make $381,000 this season. He stands 5' 11" tall, and weighs 160 pounds. Alas, ladies, Wilson is married (Kamie), and has a son (also named Wilson). More information about his illustrious career after the jump.

When he was 18, Valdez signed as an undrafted free agent with the Montreal Expos, and began his professional career with the Dominican Expos, where he played for two consecutive seasons. Both years, Valdez hit better than .300, and despite limited power, showed some speed on the basepaths (34 stolen bases in the two years combined). He also displayed a knack for bad baserunning, getting caught stealing on nearly 50% of his attempts.

Over the next three years, Valdez worked his way through rookie ball, then up through a variety of Single-A farm teams in the Expos system. He quickly established himself as a good glove man, leading New York Penn League shortstops in putouts and double plays with Advanced Rookie Vermont in 1999. However, after three years of batting averages hovering in the .250-.260 range combined with dismal power numbers, Valdez was placed on waivers and claimed by the Florida Marlins.

During the next four years of his career, Valdez bounced around the farm systems of four different major league organizations. His major league debut came in 2004 with the Chicago White Sox (he went 0-for-3 in his first game). In 2005, Valdez played with both the Seattle Mariners and the San Diego Padres at the major league level.

Valdez was traded from the Kansas City Royals to the Dodgers last March for pitcher Jarod Plummer. He spent the entire season at AAA Las Vegas, hit .297, and the strong-armed shortstop was named team MVP. With starting shortstop Rafael Furcal beginning 2007 on the disabled list, Wilson Valdez is back in the show, appearing in all three games of the Dodgers' opening series against the Milwaukee Brewers as a defensive replacement.

AP photo by Bob Jordan and were essential resources for this profile, as was a June 18, 2004 Jeremy Fowler article on Wilson Valdez in the Albuquerque Tribune.