Seattle Mariners director of amateur scouting Scott Hunter had these things to say about their evaluation of Villarreal, “He has what our guys call a ‘real’ slider and his velocity is in the 88 to 91 range and they think if he can come in and start gaining a few more miles per hour, he could have the real potential to move in our system.”
Also signing contracts were 23rd-round selection Caleb Ricca, a shortstop out of Northwestern State, and 25th-round pick Fred Villarreal, right-handed pitcher out of the University of Houston.
All four players are expected to join the AquaSox, who open the season on Friday.
Whitting said he thought Villarreal made a significant leap during his junior year under the tutelage of pitching coach Terry Rooney, who joined the UH staff two seasons ago.
Much like his habit of working out before school started at Brownsville Veterans, Villarreal put in the work at Houston to set himself apart — throwing “shadow bullpens” to refine his delivery without putting additional stress on his arm and focusing on preparing an optimal diet to maximize his gains in the weight room.
“His biggest gains and progress came this year,” Whitting said. “His stuff was always there. He matured a lot on and off the field. … It’s really fun to see a kid like Fred when he engages with himself personally, and devotes himself to getting better, and that’s what he did. When you work that hard, success is going to follow,” Whitting said. “He ended up being one of the top closers in the country for us.”