Player Profile: Carlos Villanueva

8 03 2008

Carlos Villanueva played an intregal role for the 2007 Brewers. He started the season as a late-inning pitcher out of the bullpen, but he switched between that role and the starting rotation in the second half of the season. Carlos’ numbers suffered in July and August because of this bouncing around. He bounced back nicely in September when asked to hold down a position in the starting rotation. Carlos looks to compete for a spot in the starting rotation this spring.

’07 Stat Line

8-5 W-L, 3.94 ERA, 114.3 IP, 53 BB, 99 K

Strengths

The biggest advantage for Carlos Villanueva is that he is a very smart pitcher. He knows how to change speeds very well and how to work to the hitter’s weaknesses. Without overpowering stuff (a la Chris Capuano), Carlos needs to have a mix of pitches and know when to throw them. The biggest difference between Villanueva and Capuano is that Villy has a legitimate third pitch. Cappy is working on his slider, but Carlos has a curveball that he can throw for strikes. That third pitch really helps him when he gets to the second or third time around the batting order.

Carlos strength as a pitcher also comes from his deceptive delivery and a very good change up. His pitching motion is very herky-jerky and is very much reliant on timing. If his timing gets off in his windup, he starts to lose control of the plate. His change up is a definite major league pitch. He can throw it in any count and to any hitter. Carlos is incredibly confident in it, and his unorthodox delivery helps with the deception of the pitch. It is difficult to see the ball coming out of his hand, so he naturally has the upper-hand in the battle.

Weaknesses

One thing that Carlos needs to work on is lowering his BB/9 IP. In 114.3 innings of work last year, he walked 53 batters. As I said above, this comes from losing his timing in his delivery, and he and Mike Maddux have been working on that so far this spring. His struggles can be shown in his outing yesterday, when he walked three batters in three innings on the mound. This is a cause for concern, and it would be great to see Carlos improve in that area.

Carlos also needs to be worried about fatigue this upcoming season. Even he admitted that his struggles down the stretch last season were because of mental fatigue and not physical shortcomings. It probably did not help matters that he did not have a set role in the pitching staff last season and that he is only going to be 24 years old this season, so things are looking up in that aspect of his game. It’s just something to note that he struggled with his mind game down the stretch, although he did pick it up immensely once settling in the starting rotation in September.

Arsenal

Carlos has a fastball, a change up, and a curveball. His fastball moves more than Capuano’s and is a bit faster. It settles in around 88-91 mph. His change up is clearly his best pitch, and he relies on that to get ahead of hitters and as his out pitch. His curveball is still a work in progress, but it is still developed enough that he is willing to throw it in game situations. He will need to keep working on that pitch to be a legitimate middle of the rotation starter, but he’s still young enough to develop that pitch.

Projections

ZiPS – 8-9 W-L, 4.46 ERA, 111 IP, 43 BB, 89 K
The Hardball Times – 6-6 W-L, 4.39 ERA, 106 IP, 44 BB, 86 K

Ned Yost has implied that Carlos has an inside track at spot in the starting rotation, so I think that these projections are on the low side for most of the peripheral numbers.  Carlos was so consistent at the end of last season, and I do not expect his ERA to be any higher than that.  Most of the runs scored on him were in July and August, when he went through a rough patch after being bounced around between the bullpen and the starting rotation.  The walk ratio seems to be very solid in these projects.  Carlos has not shown any reason to believe that he will improve in that aspect.  His strike out rates seem to be very solid in these projections as well.  I expect Carlos to start the year in the starting rotation, and I seem him thriving.  I do not know if he will be bumped out when Gallardo comes back, but I certainly hope not.  Carlos’ future is in the Brewers rotation.

Projected Stat Line: 10-6 W-L, 4.14 ERA, 153 IP, 68 BB, 129 K
Projected Season Rating (out of 10): 7.3

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