Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE
Some have dubbed Villarreal the "closer of the future" due to his impressive 2012, where he mixed a high 90's fastball and good slider to record lots of strikeouts and solid overall numbers. So the stuff is undoubtedly impressive, but what does he really profile as? Is he a potential future closer? How does his stuff project in the future? Should he be moved to the rotation?
Like Mark from TigsTown (@TigsTownMark), I'm going to begin my scouting reports from now on by listing where I got my information from, as well as a "bare-bones" projection of sorts, which I will term "BBP" (for bare bones projection, obviously).
Basis of Report:
-Personal Observation (film study, in-person viewing)
-Personal Observations from other scouts, told to me in person
7th-8th inning reliever, potential shut down set up man.
Began career in 2006, pitching for the Tigers affiliate in the Venezuelan Summer League. He spent the vast majority of his minor league time as a starter where he was solid, but not spectacular, and as we have seen, the move to the bullpen has paid big dividends. Villarreal slowly but surely worked his way up through the minors, spending 2006 in the VSL, 2007 in the GCL, 2008 split btwn GCL and WMI, 2009 with WMI, 2010 split btwn Lakeland and Erie, and making his professional debut in 2011. He posted solid numbers throughout the minors, but wasn't going to challenge anyone for a spot in the Tigers rotation. One scout I spoke to said "I saw him in 2009 with the Whitecaps, and immediately thought that he should move to the pen. He just didn't have a legitimate 3rd pitch, and the fastball wasn't what it is now." 25 years old right now, will turn 26 in May of 2013
Villarreal stands 6' tall and weighs about 170lbs ( per www.Baseball-Reference.com/players/v/villabr02.shtml ). He has a slender build, which doesn't usually fit the profile of a flame-throwing RHP, but Villarreal has very sturdy and strong legs which allow him to generate very good velocity. Makeup (or composure) is solid but occasionally comes into question. Normally he doesn't have an issue, but once in awhile we've witnessed him get flustered, usually following an untimely walk or base hit. Such a thing is to be expected with a young pitcher, particularly one who was called upon to pitch in high-leverage innings in his first full season in the Majors. Not a complete "non-issue", but definitely a minor one.
Villarreal gets great drive from his lower half...good arm speed...does not show the ball early to hitters...when right, has good arm slot...solid mechanics all around...lands in athletic position, ready to field the ball...does not lose sight of target at any time during delivery...
Some effort to delivery, perhaps leading to the arm tightness he felt in 2012 (for reference, "effortless delivery" is epitomized by Justin Verlander)...has occasional trouble repeating delivery, which leads to altered arm slot, which in turn affects his command...very rarely, I have noticed him tipping his pitches by way of arm slot...
Fastball earns easy 65-70 grades as it usually sits 96-98...very good life at plate, in particular when throwing to arm side...straightens out slightly when thrown to glove side, but that's common...has touched 99 several times...seems to command it the same whether its at 95 or at 98, which is special...misses bats easily, due to late movement, especially when located up in zone...
Throws a slider that sits at about 86-88...flashes plus at times, when sharp, late, 2 plane break is witnessed...majority of the time it is an above-average pitch...has ability to miss bats, especially to RHH...excellent complement to plus-plus fastball...occasionally tips pitch by adjusting arm slot (rare)...usually throws pitch from same arm slot with same arm speed as fastball, which is outstanding...
Rarely throws pitch...when he does, it sits around 84-86...basically a "show-me" pitch that's better left unthrown...of the few I've seen, it's rather flat with marginal arm side fade...does throw from same arm slot and arm speed as fastball...with overpowering fastball and above-average slider, changeup is not really needed at this point...
Plus-plus fastball, potential plus slider, solid mechanics, and solid makeup. Should definitely stay in bullpen.
I see an 8th inning reliever, with the potential to be dominating. His mechanics lead me to have minor questions about his long-term durability, and his makeup worries me very slightly, but enough to where I don't see a future closer, although I would argue that he has the pure stuff to become one. Should he be able to develop his slider into a legitimate plus pitch, rather than just flashing it occasionally, his profile increases in potential. Don't see the arm speed nor frame for added velocity, but I don't think anyone is complaining about consistent 96-97 MPH
Thanks for reading, and Go Tigers!