Rafael Valera enters his first year with the Grizzlies and eighth as a professional in 2019.
After signing with the Minnesota Twins as an international free agent, the Venezuelan infielder spent 2012 and 2013 playing with the Twins’ affiliate in the Dominican Summer League. In 2014, as a 19-year-old, Valera played his first season in the United States: 47 games with the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Twins and a three-game cameo with the Class A-Adv. Fort Myers (Fla.) Miracle. He played the following two seasons with the Class-A Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Kernels, then appeared in 42 more games with Fort Myers in 2017 before his career in the Twins’ system finished. His best affiliated season came in 2016 when he posted a .779 OPS at Class-A Cedar Rapids.
Valera, who will turn 25 on Aug. 15, moved to independent ball last season with the Pittsburg (Calif.) Diamonds of the independent Pacific Association. He hit .294 with 11 home runs, 55 RBIs, and an .868 OPS in 76 games.
Valera has played all nine positions in his professional career, including a pitching appearance in 2015 with Cedar Rapids and seven catching appearances between Cedar Rapids and Fort Myers.