Position: Right-handed Pitcher
The path up the minor league ladder hasn't always been an easy one for ‘Villa,' but he's made progress and put himself on the map as a guy that could make the big leagues in the next two years.
Villarreal started his career as a 19-year old in the VSL back when the Tigers and Marlins shared a complex and a team there. He finished that first summer with a 3.48 ERA in 41 1/3 innings. Brayan allowed only 35 hits over that span, but also only struck out 23.
Stateside for the 2007 season, Villarreal's time on the mound was very brief, going down after just one outing, with a torn UCL that required surgery to reconstruct his elbow.
Back on the mound in 2008, Villarreal spent the bulk of the season in the Gulf Coast League at age 21, and he was back in the form he displayed in the VSL two years prior. He finished his 40 1/3 innings with a 3.65 ERA, 26 hits allowed, and 37 strikeouts.
The Tigers finally gave Brayan a shot at full-season ball in 2009 and he was a dynamite piece of the roster for a strong ‘Caps club. In 16 starts (26 total appearances), Villarreal notched an impressive 2.87 ERA despite just a 5-5 record. He struck out more than a batter per inning, only walked about three per nine innings, and yielded only 85 hits in 103 1/3 innings.
Villarreal took the next logical step in his develop in 2010, starting the year at High-A Lakeland, making 16 starts for the club and posting a strong 3.47 ERA and again, more than a strikeout per inning. He was promoted to Double-A Erie in the second half and made eight starts for the SeaWolves. His ratios stayed very strong, and very similar to what he had shown at lower levels.
His strong showing across two levels in 2010 earned him a spot on the 40-man roster following the season, protecting him from the Rule 5 draft.
Much of Villarreal's scouting report backs up the numbers he has posted throughout his career. His fastball sits at 91-93 mph and he has been reported to have reached as high as 97 in short stints following his surgery. He can rarely reach that high, but he can touch 95 when he needs more during a game.
His velocity tends to dip later in starts, and he will have to demonstrate better stamina for scouts to believe he can start long term. He does show the ability to work in the same range from both the windup and the stretch.
Some scouts call Villarreal's breaking ball a slider, while others call it more of a curveball. It would be fair to dub it a slurve, with some two-plane break and solid rotation. He can throw the pitch for strikes with regularity and has begun to improve his ability to have it finish out of the zone as a swing-and-miss pitch.
He doesn't regularly incorporate a change-up into his arsenal, though he has a below-average version that he will mix in a few times a game. He lacks feel for the pitch and he will have to begin using it much more if it is to become a reliable third pitch.
Villarreal has good control and has started to command his pitches much better. He routinely got future scores of 50 to 55 for his command and should be able to locate throughout the zone when he refines his craft.
With the questions surrounding his stamina and being limited to basically a two-pitch mix, most scouts view him as a reliever with an eighth inning ceiling, and more likely slotting in the around the seventh inning.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP AVG A+
Villarreal's Tommy John surgery is in his rear view mirror at this point. He hasn't had any injury concerns or unusual soreness over the last two years. Any questions surrounding his health center completely on his ability to handle the rigors of a rotation over a full season and the reigns off his pitch counts.
Brayan's 2010 season will almost undoubtedly start back at Double-A Erie as a member of the starting rotation. He'll take his turn every fifth day and try to prove the doubters wrong with respect to his stamina.
With his spot on the 40-man roster, Villarreal is just a quick call-up away from the big leagues, and he could see Detroit at some point this year if the needs of the big club call for it. Though the consensus projection has him in the bullpen long term, the Tigers are going to give him a chance to start as long as they can.
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