On Sunday the Texas Rangers announced that they had completed their trade with the New York Mets, naming the PTBNL in return for Ariel Jurado.
The official naming of Players To Be Named Later from trades that took place in the MLB this season are starting to filter in. The Texas Rangers confirmed the two prospects who were headed to Texas from the A’s in exchange from Mike Minor last week and on Sunday they announced that they had received prospect Steve Villines in exchange for Ariel Jurado who joined New York in early August.
Villines is an intriguing relief prospect despite not being the most highly touted pitcher in prospect ranking circles. The 25-year old was a 10th round pick of the Mets in the 2017 MLB Draft after a collegiate career at the University of Kansas. A 6’2″ righty with a sidearm delivery, Villines has worked exclusively as a reliever in his pro career and in his college time with the Jayhawks.
Villines has steadily climbed up the ladder of the minor league system reaching the Triple-A level last season. As a whole, Villines minor league career has been successful with 107 relief appearances and a 2.67 ERA. He has a career 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings rate between six minor league levels and has a 1.045 WHIP to his credit.
At the upper levels of the minors Villines has seen varied success. In a small stint with the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate in 2019, Villines made 13 appearances and posted a 6.75 ERA with a WHIP approaching the 2.000 mark. In Double-A though, he was stellar pitching for the Mets’ affiliate Binghampton in parts of 2018 and 2019. His Double-A numbers include a 1.60 ERA in 56.1 innings pitched and a far more impressive 0.994 WHIP.
What’s interesting about Villines and could make him a viable big league reliever is his ability to potentially pitch more than an inning at a time. In his 107 minor league appearances Villines is averaging 1.45 innings pitched per outing which might indicate a role as a middle reliever in the Majors.
Per a write up from Lone Star Ball, Villines isn’t a hard thrower with his fastball velocity in the high-80’s. That isn’t ideal for a big league reliever but if he continues to show effective command, he could fill a role at the bottom the Rangers’ bullpen.
Whether Villines will be with the Texas Rangers to open the 2021 season is yet to be seen. For a team that has a lot of question marks throughout their roster, the bullpen seems fairly settled with a number of young relievers at the upper levels of the minor league system. However Villines would definitely be an option for Texas at some point in the upcoming season and if not in 2021, he likely would garner significant consideration for 2022 especially if he puts together another strong minor league season.