The New York Mets are looking for viable arms in their bullpen this season. The team’s new AAA affiliate in Syracuse has made it easy to cycle arms through the unit, which has been a necessity with few relievers living up to expectations. Guys like Eric Hanhold, Tim Peterson, Daniel Zamora, and Tyler Bashlor have already earned chances in the big league bullpen, and the newest member of the Syracuse Mets could factor into the mix soon enough. That man is sidearming righty Stephen Villines, and he is the focus of this week’s edition of Minor League Mondays.
Villines, the Mets’ 10th round pick in 2017 out of Kansas, jumped all the way from Low-A Columbia to AA Binghamton last season, going 5-4 with a 3.47 ERA in 47 appearances across three levels of minor league ball. The Mets assigned Villines to Binghamton to start this season and he was brilliant, giving up only three unearned runs in 12.2 innings pitched, striking out 14 batters for good measure. That performance impressed the Mets, who quickly bumped Villines up to AAA Syracuse last week.
Villines has picked up right where he left off in Binghamton, tossing four scoreless innings for Syracuse in three appearances and striking out another four batters. Velocity isn’t the key for Villines, whose fastball sits in the mid-to-upper 80’s, but his unique delivery makes it difficult for hitters to track the ball. Amazin’ Avenue’s scouting report on Villines notes that he has excellent command of all three of his pitches, allowing him to utilize his pinpoint control to induce weak contact.
The Mets haven’t had this kind of reliever in their bullpen since Chad Bradford was a key member of the 2006 relief corps. Like Bradford, Villines’ delivery makes him very difficult to hit, and he could become a weapon for the Mets out of the bullpen as soon as the second half. The Mets likely want to let Villines get exposed to the AAA level for a bit to fully prepare him for life as a big leaguer, but if guys like Bashlor and Hanhold don’t take advantage of their opportunities the door could be wide open for Villines sooner rather than later.