- Full name Oscar Eduardo Villarreal
- Born 11/22/1981 in Monterrey, Mexico
- Profile Ht.: 6'0" / Wt.: 195 / Bats: L / Throws: R
- School Preparatoria No 16
- Debut 03/31/2003
Organization Prospect Rankings
There is no questioning Villarreal's toughness. He sustained a hairline fracture of his right thumb when struck by a line drive in a late April start in Double-A and still made his next two starts--in pain all the while--before letting the organization know about the injury. Until he got hurt, he was the most dominant pitcher in the Texas League, going 4-1, 1.26 with scoreless streaks of 11 and 19 innings. Villarreal features an 89-92 mph fastball and the best slider in the system, yet his changeup may be his most effective pitch. He throws all his pitches for strikes and improved his command within the zone in 2002. Villarreal missed a month before returning, and afterward he didn't baffle hitters as much as he had before the injury. He'll try to find that groove again when he begins 2003 in Triple-A.
As if it's not already challenging enough for pitching prospects to make their way to the big leagues, Diamondbacks farmhands are faced with the added burden of pitching in launching pads. Stats don't always tell the entire story, and Villarreal is a perfect example. With just 25 high Class A innings under his belt, he spent 2001 in the El Paso rotation and held his own as the second-younger pitcher in the Texas League. Villarreal succeeds by getting hitters to pound his sinker into the ground. He surrendered just 10 home runs while pitching his home games at Cohen Stadium, a notorious bandbox. He's not intimidating, but he works aggressively in all quadrants of the strike zone with a 91-94 mph fastball, a sharp slider and a deceptive changeup with late life. His 2001 workload was a career high, though he averaged just more than five innings per start--raising questions about his durability. Villarreal needs to settle on a consistent arm slot, which will improve his command. For the second winter in a row, he was one of the top pitchers in the Mexican Pacific League. Scouts say he pitches with more confidence and poise in his native country and think it's only a matter of time before he achieves the same success in the United States.
For all the praise given to Junior Noboa's work in the Dominican, the Diamondbacks also have done a fine job in Mexico. At the major league level, they've gotten a lot of mileage out of veteran Armando Reynoso and struck gold in 1999 with Hermosillo star Erubiel Durazo. Villareal could be another future standout. The team raves about his maturity as a pitcher, specifically his refusal to give in to batters and his cleverness in mixing his array of pitches. Villarreal throws around 90 mph, which is good enough to make his slider and changeup more effective. The Diamondbacks were encouraged by reports from the Mexican Pacific League, where he was Mexicali's best starter. Because of his youth and Arizona's influx of college signees last summer, Villarreal probably will spend his second consecutive season at Class A. The Diamondbacks have plenty of time to decide whether he'll be a full-time starter or reliever. He has split his time between the two roles thus far.