"I'm really happy, really excited to be here," Valera, 25, said through an interpreter. "The first people to find out were my family and just being able to celebrate that moment with them and talk with them was emotional. They didn't expect it, and I didn't expect it either."
Valera's journey to the big leagues included 800 games over eight seasons in the Minors. The switch-hitting infielder signed with the organization out of Venezuela in 2010, and he had been on Triple-A Memphis' roster for all of 2017.
There, Valera hit .314 with eight home runs, 41 RBIs and a team-high 133 hits. He was especially hot late and earned organizational Player of the Month honors after hitting .346 with five homers and 18 RBIs over 25 games in August. He reached base safely in 26 consecutive games from July 30-Aug. 29.
"He's going to be a guy who puts together a tough at-bat," manager Mike Matheny said. "[He's] tough to strike out; takes a walk; a good baserunner. Just all the way around, he's had a real nice season."
The bulk of Valera's defensive exposure in the Minors came at second base, which is where the Cardinals intend to utilize him. He does have experience at all three outfield positions, as well as first base and shortstop.
Valera said he's especially proud of the improvements he's made on defense over the past year.
"Thankfully, the manager [Stubby Clapp] in Memphis has really helped me through that," Valera said. "I admit that's an area that I've had to make some adjustments and work on. Every year I try to come back better and better."
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.