Prospect Profile: Wilmer Villatoro

When Wilmer Villatoro showed up in the California League to begin his stint with the Lake Elsinore Storm, it wasn't the start he had hoped for. After a month of substandard performances, he righted the ship and sailed smoothly through the rest of the year. "He got into spring training late because we had some immigration problems," Tye Waller, the Padres' Director of Player Development, said.

"So he missed spring training.  We threw him in some games down there and he kind of pulled a groin-which actually was a problem for him off an on through the course of the year."

Villatoro allowed twelve earned runs over his first eight appearances and walked the only two batters he faced in his ninth outing.  His ERA for May was a hefty 10.13.  We walked 15 batters in 10.2 innings of work and opponents hit .350 off him that month.  His WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) was an abnormally high 2.72. 

What it came down to was Villatoro battling through his spring training problems on the mound in Lake Elsinore.

Instead of getting the benefit of instruction in Peoria, Villatoro had to go through the inconsistencies that come with time off the mound during the offseason.  And it is likely that he was simply trying too hard.

"I think he got off to a bad start, wanting to show us that he was more than capable of pitching at that level," said Waller.  "He really got in a rut. With the work of Mike Harkey, settling Wilmer down and getting him to use his stuff.  Really just stay under control."

He would allow only nine earned runs to score on him the rest of the year.  Months with a 1.59, 1.00 and 2.35 ERA in succession turned a dismal season into one of promise fulfilled.

He ended up going 6-2 on the year after losing two games in May and opponents batted .218 off him for the year, a telling stat considering his early blunders.  Over the final two months of the year, he allowed just 18 hits in 100 at bats.

His busiest inning, the seventh, was when he was at his best.  Villatoro compiled an ERA of just 0.79.  With runners on base, Villatoro limited batters to a .188 average.

Villatoro signed for $100K and felt he represented all of El Salvador with his entry into professional baseball.  He will try too hard sometimes to prove himself.  He possesses a thin build, similar to Pedro Martinez of old, and a very live arm.

He ended up playing in the AFL, a late replacement, and pitched 8.1 innings, allowing four runs on nine hits while striking out eight. 

Villatoro will have the benefit of Harkey in Double-A this year and can continue his tutelage under the pitching coach of Mobile.  They have developed a nice history and the lanky right-hander can continue on his trek towards the majors in the pitcher-friendly Southern League.

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