Villareal Builds On Breakout Year For Tigers
DETROIT—Righthander Brayan Villareal stands at just 6 feet, 170 pounds, but don't let the slight stature fool you.
"Villareal has a certain swagger on the mound," minor league pitching coordinator Jon Matlack said. "He seems large on the mound. He certainly looks like someone you have to reckon with."
Early in Villareal's career, that swagger was a minus.
"In the past, that swagger seemed to get in his way," Matlack said. "He would be over-emotional, and he would lose control of himself—and sometimes the game.
"He is learning how to challenge that confidence into something that will work for him instead of working against him."
Villareal, who began the season as the Tigers' No. 18 prospect, throws both a two- and four-seam fastball that touches 96 mph and works comfortably around 92. He also throws a slider and a changeup.
He opened the season with high Class A Lakeland and went 7-4, 3.47 in 16 starts with the Flying Tigers.
Even more impressive were his 90 strikeouts in 86 innings, which ranked him among the Florida State League leaders before he was promoted to Double-A Erie. In his first four starts for the SeaWolves, Villareal had a 2.74 ERA, allowing just 19 hits in 23 innings while fanning 20.
Signed out of Venezuela at age 18, he had shoulder surgery early in his career and made just 26 starts as a pro from 2006-08. He did show a glimpse of his potential in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2008, striking out 37 in 37 innings while posting a 3.65 ERA in 11 appearances.
Last year Villareal started putting everything together with low Class A West Michigan. He pitched in 26 games for the Whitecaps and had a 2.87 ERA with 118 strikeouts in 103 innings.
"The fact is that Villareal is past his injuries, and that was important to his development," Matlack said. "It has allowed him to work on what he needs to do to become a better pitcher rather than working on getting healthy."
• The Tigers promoted David Chadd to vice president of amateur scouting and special assistant to the general manager, made Scott Pleis the new scouting director and promoted Mike Rojas to farm director.
• Infielder Audy Ciriaco was promoted to Triple-A Toledo but played in only one game for the Mud Hens before going on the disabled list with a broken hamate bone.