Bats: Right, Throws: Right
Height: 6' 1", Weight: 235 lb.
Pedro Villarreal entered the world on December 9, 1987. He was born in Edinburg, TX, but spent his high school years in Seagoville, TX. After spending some time as the closer at Howard College, Villarreal was taken by the Reds in the 7th round of the 2008 draft. That season he appeared in two games, and pitched two innings for the Reds Rookie League team. How did he do in those two innings? He surrendered 6 H, 5 R, 2 ER, and 2 BB.
From 2009-2010 Pedro spent time on the Reds' Rookie League, A, and A+ clubs. Initially, Cincinnati was willing to give him an opportunity as a starter. Over the course of those two seasons he appeared in 46 games and started 27. The 2009 season brought to light some concerns over his command (he walked 24 and struck out 21). However, in 2010 he appeared to finally get comfortable, and he found some success over the course of his 32 appearances.
In 2011-2012 it was clear the Reds were now grooming him for the starting rotation. He only pitched as a starter over the course of these two seasons, and he progressed from A+ to AAA. He also got his first taste of big league action in 2012. In September he was called up, and he got one big league inning of work in a game against the Phillies.
The next season was more of the same. Villarreal had an uninspiring stint in AAA, and then pitched five innings for the Reds. 3.2 of those innings came during a start against the Rockies in June. Over those 3.2 innings Villarreal surrendered 10 H, 6 ER, and 2 BB. Later in August he was given another two innings out of the pen. Another two runs were surrendered, and that was all the big league action Villarreal would see that season.
By 2014 Villarreal had leveraged a better stint in AAA into 14.2 innings out of the bullpen. Finally last season he was able to spend much more time at the major league level. As a reliever for the Reds he pitched 50 innings. Unfortunately he saw his SO/9 rate drop to its lowest level since 2009, but by ERA+ (116) he was still able to pull together an above average major league season.
Prior to the start of this season the Reds non-tendered Villarreal, but the signed him to a minor league deal in January. This spring he'll be looking to secure a spot in a wide open Reds bullpen. So what are his chances? Lets take a deeper look at the 28 year old right hander.
Drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 7th round of the 2008 amateur draft
Signed June 11, 2008
Debut: September 5, 2012 (Age 24.271, 17,916th in MLB history) vs. PHI 1.0 IP, 0 H, 1 SO, 0 BB, 0 ER
Rookie Status: Still Intact through 2016
Team: Reds 2012-2015
2016 Contract Status: Pre-Arb Eligible
Service Time (01/2016): 1.034, Arb Eligible: 2018, Free Agent: 2021
Hey McCutchen, how Rreal is Pedro? Villa Rreal.
This was cool...
Outside of J.J. Hoover, Tony Cingrani, and Jumbo Diaz it's hard to know if there are any locks to see innings out of the Cincinnati bullpen this season. The Reds current depth chart displays a number of young, relatively unknown, pitchers who are looking to get an opportunity. Villarreal is facing an uphill battle by being on a minor league contract, but what are his chances to make the team?
This spring Villarreal has seen the fifth most innings (11) of any Cincinnati pitcher. Opposing teams are only hitting .216 against him, and he's kept his ERA at a tidy 2.45 (yes, small sample size). His 0.91 WHIP is third best on the team. While the number of innings might be small it is clear that Villarreal is having one of the most successful spring trainings of any Reds reliever. As Zach Buchanan wrote this week, Villarreal is working on, "keeping his delivery in line and not flying open." He's also working hard to ensure he doesn't close his finger in a bullpen door again.
Again, the struggle for Villarreal is that he's working on a minor league deal. There are likely comparable pitchers who are younger (e.g. Rule 5 pick Chris O'Grady), and others already working off of major league deals (Blake Wood). There might simply be too many guys in line in front of an unassuming Villarreal for him to find a way into the pen on opening day.
However, with the success he's had it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Reds stash him and see how the early months of the season go. If he continues to find success there's no reason he couldn't earn a trip back to the majors this summer. It will take patience on his part, but if he's willing to put up with being bounced around there will likely be some innings for him in Cincinnati this season.