The Tampa Bay Rays selected North Carolina State University starter-turned-swingman Chris Villaman with the No. 284 overall selection in the ninth round of the draft.
MLB Pipeline ranked Villaman No. 219 overall on their draft board, indicating the Rays may have a steal in the southpaw at this draft position (if he signs, he has two years of college eligibility left). Baseball America slotted him much lower at 438th.
Villaman has been a near-one-pitch pitcher for the most part as he relies heavily on his fastball, but he does have a decent change-up that can be mixed in. His ability to develop a third pitch at the professional level will likely drive his usage in the Rays system if he elects to sign.
Villaman relies heavily on a 90-93 mph fastball that tops out at 95, using it more than 80 percent of the time overall and more than 90 percent against left-handers, and it plays better than its velocity. He can command it all over the strike zone, with good carry at the top and nice downhill angle at the knees. He keeps right-handers off his heater by mixing in an improved low-80s changeup with fade and sink. Villaman has a strong 6-foot-2 frame and pounds the strike zone, and some scouts wonder whether he could succeed as a starter in pro ball. The biggest question is his lack of feel for spinning the ball and he doesn’t show much faith in a flat, slow slider in the upper 70s. It’s more likely that he’ll remain in a multi-inning relief role at the next level.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound lefthander works primarily with a fastball/changeup combination, with his heater sitting in the low 90s with good carry and impressive command, and a low-80s changeup as his go-to secondary and a pitch that generated whiffs at a 54% rate this spring. Scouts don’t love Villaman’s feel for spinning a breaking ball, though he has thrown a slurvy slider in the upper 70s.