Steve Villines RHP
Villines might just be my favorite undervalued prospect. He’s a relief pitcher who throws sidearm and has done nothing but carve up minor league hitters up to this point. Villines was taken by the Mets in the 10th round of the 2017 draft out of the University of Kansas. Since then, the Mets have promoted him four times.
He owns a 2.68 ERA through 94 Minor League innings, pitching as high as Double-A. During which time he struck out 137 batters (13.1 K/9) and collected 11 saves.
Admittedly, pitching from a different release point tends to work better on inexperienced Minor League hitters compared to Major League hitters. But, if you’d take a moment to look at the long, successful careers of guys like Brad Ziegler, Chad Bradford, Darren O’Day, and Pat Neshek, you may come to realize there is some real value in pitchers who throw weird.
It’s also encouraging to know that Villines has a fastball in the low 90’s, rare for a sidearm pitcher. Accordingly, I’d compare him to Steve Cishek, another sidearmer with a good fastball that has enjoyed a lot of success in the bigs thus far.
Because his stuff is good and he has late-inning experience, I expect Villines to quickly move through the system and compete for a bullpen job as soon as 2020. If nothing else, giving the opposing team a look at a different release point toward the end of the game may make the pitchers after him even harder to hit.
Daniel Zamora LHP
The only left-handed pitcher on this pitcher-heavy list, Zamora has already seen time in the Major Leagues as a left-handed specialist. He’s an underrated prospect because teams fail to see value in the kind of pitcher Zamora is.
If indeed Zamora is the Mets’ LOOGY in 2019, he’ll provide the same value as Jerry Blevins, only he’ll cost league minimum instead of $7 million. The only difference between the two is that Zamora throws more of a sweeping slider compared to Blevins’ famous slow curve.
I would even argue that a slider is better than a curveball when it comes to lefty vs. lefty matchups given its tendency to look like a fastball and run further away from a left-handed hitter than a curveball. Without over-analyzing though, the results have been present.
Zamora threw just 9 innings for the Mets last year but struck out 16 batters and held a WHIP of 1.000. That’s about all you can ask of a left-handed specialist in the major leagues. His ability to get strikeouts out of the pen in important situations with a left-handed hitter at the plate could be huge, especially in situations where there is a runner on third and less than two outs.
I originally doubted the trade in which the Mets acquired Zamora in exchange for Josh Smoker. However, it appears to have been a good move since Zamora will be given a serious shot to continue to consistently get lefties out at the major league level.
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