Name: Euclides Viloria
DOB: September 9, 1989
"I played in winter ball but my shoulder got tendonitis," Viloria said. "I was hoping to come back at the end of the year to throw a few innings."
In Spring Training he foretold that he would need surgery and the inevitable happened. His shoulder could not handle any stress and the southpaw went under the knife.
He missed the entire season and won't return to the mound until Spring Training of 2008. The good news is he is young enough where it shouldn't affect his prospect status drastically. He has plenty of time to recover and surpass the point he reached in 2007.
"I want to work on the command of my fastball, but I need to be healthy first," Viloria said.
"He had a little tweak, and they went in and cleaned it up," pitching coach Dave Rajsich said. "I don't think it was anything major. That will give him a chance to get stronger. He's now just starting to understand – he's watching all of these other guys come out of rehab and they're getting bigger and better."
With 12.09 strikeouts per nine innings, Viloria bested the marks of nearly every prominent prospect in 2007. And the southpaw was the youngest of the bunch.
"The changeup was my go to pitch," Viloria said. "I could throw it for strikes. It was a good changeup. The fastball was up and down. I could not throw it consistently."
While he fanned an impressive 73 in 54.1 innings at the Arizona Rookie League level, Viloria also had his share of angst – namely the walk. The Venezuelan native issued a free pass to 34 batters on the year, walking three batters or more in eight of his 14 starts.
While the excitement of the strikeout was genuine, the walk totals meant runners on base and long innings. Instead of working to contact to pitch deep into games, Viloria was petering out by the third frame.
"I need to keep the ball down and just throw strikes and not focus on the strikeout," said Viloria. "Throw the changeup to get ground balls and throw strikes."
His impressive strikeout numbers, therefore, were impeding his progress. With each at-bat taking more than the three pitchers that the Padres preach, his pitch count was elevated by the time he hit the third inning.
As a result, he reached the fifth inning just three times during his tenure with the Arizona Rookie League Padres.
"I need to work on my line to home plate and throwing in front of my body," Viloria added. "Last year, my arm was back which was not good. It made my fastball go up and down. All pitchers need balance to throw strikes."
When healthy, Viloria has a fastball that sits in the 86-88 MPH and the Padres believe he will add velocity at some point in the future. He doesn't command it well, especially as he tires and the pitch is elevated.
Viloria also has a plus changeup that is an incredible equalizer. He favors throwing the pitch to right-handed hitters, burying it on the outside corner to get them chasing when he is ahead in the count. He can also throw it for a strike and he tosses it with the same arm speed as his fastball, making it even tougher for hitters to pick up.
His breaking ball also needs work as it lacks true consistency and gets a little loopy at times. He has a good feel for it and it could become a second go-to pitch from the backwards working Viloria.
Viloria is a cocky pitcher that can be seen by some as arrogance. He has confidence in himself and believes he is good. Early on, there were some who worried he might be a problem in the future but those thoughts were quelled by the maturity he showed during the season.
One thing Viloria has working for him is his advanced grasp of the English language. It has led to a firmer understanding of the game.
"It was not hard – the mental part of the game," Viloria said coming in as a 17-year-old. "Learning English has helped me advance. I try and read and talk with the American guys. Here, I learn everything that they are teaching and knowing English helps me learn faster. I understand and translate to other guys when they don't understand."
Conclusion: The promise he showed in his rookie season bodes well for his future, despite not being healthy in 2008. He has to become better conditioned and should have had time to improve in that area as he recovered from shoulder surgery.
One the menu in his return, Viloria's focus must be on improving his fastball command. If he use it to establish more first-pitch strikes, he will setup the use of his changeup. At any level, the changeup is a quality pitch, but hitters will eventually adjust.
On another note, the Venezuelan's first name is pronounced ‘Yee-ow-clee-dees'.
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