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The 10 best Mets minor league pitchers I saw this year: 3, Chris Viall

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Counting down the best minor league pitchers I saw in 2018.

Chris Viall
Steve Sypa

Disclaimer: This is a ranking of the best players that I saw during the 2018 season. I saw a wide cross-section of teams in 2018, seeing the Kingsport Mets, Brooklyn Cyclones, Columbia Fireflies, and Binghamton Rumble Ponies, but I did not see the GCL Mets, St. Lucie Mets, or Las Vegas 51s, nor did I attend every single game of the teams that I did see. As such, this is not a comprehensive Mets prospect list. If a player is not on the list, I either did not see him, or considered the listed ten players better.

Name: Chris Viall

Team: Columbia Fireflies

Position: RHP

Born: 9/28/95 (23)

Height: 6’9”

Weight: 250 lbs.

Bats/Throws: R/R

Acquired: 2016 Draft, Round 6 (Stanford)

2018 Season: 15 G (15 GS), 66.1 IP, 61 H, 42 R, 35 ER (4.75 ERA), 41 BB, 94 K, 9 HBP, 0 BLK, 14 WP, .349 BABIP (Low-A)

Date(s) Seen: July 16 @ Lakewood (4.0 IP, 7 H, 8 R, 5 ER, 5 BB, 6 K)

The Man

Chris Viall attended Soquel High School in Soquel, California and over the course of his time playing varsity baseball there, posted a 1.79 ERA in 152.1 innings pitched, allowing 88 hits, walking 65, and striking out 200. In his senior year, he posted a 1.45 ERA in 72.1 innings, allowing 43 hits, walking 35, and striking out 113, and it was these numbers that led the San Francisco Giants to draft him in the 39th round of the 2013 MLB Draft. Rather than sign with the Giants, Viall elected to honor his commitment to Stanford University.

In all three years as a Cardinal, the big right-hander went back-and-forth between starting, primarily getting used as a middle reliever with spot starts sprinkled in here and there. As a freshman in 2014, he posted a 4.74 ERA in 43.2 innings, allowing 45 hits, walking 31, and striking out 18. As a sophomore in 2015, he posted a 4.73 ERA in 32.0 innings, allowing 32 hits, walking 22, and striking out 22. As a junior in 2016, he posted a 5.01 ERA in 23.0 innings, allowing 19 hits, walking 19, and striking out 29. The Mets selected him in the 6th round of the 2016 MLB Draft and the right-hander signed with the team for the slot value of $250,500. He was assigned to the Kingsport Mets and posted a 6.75 ERA in his first professional season, allowing 18 hits, walking 17, and striking out 27.

The right-hander underwent offseason elbow ulnar disposition surgery and had a delayed start to the 2017 season. When he was ready to get back on the mound, he was assigned to the Brooklyn Cyclones, where he posted a 3.42 ERA in 26.1 innings, allowing 17 hits, walking 14, and striking out 31. The 22-year-old was promoted to the Columbia Fireflies for the 2018 season and had an up-and-down season thanks to various injuries that plagued him throughout the year, including a strained shoulder that intermittently made his shoulder numb and ulnar pain flare-ups. All in all, Viall posted a 4.75 ERA in 66.1 innings, having his season end prematurely in early August due to snapping tricep syndrome. He allowed 61 hits, walked 41, and struck out 94.

The Pitcher

Chris Viall
Steve Sypa

Standing an imposing 6’9” and weighing 230 pounds, Chris Viall is an intimidating pitcher. He throws from a 3/4 arm slot. Like many tall pitchers, Viall has had problems with the consistency of his mechanics. He utilizes a high leg kick, but his leg lift is sometimes high and sometimes half-hearted, leading to weight and momentum imbalances almost immediately in his delivery. His is inconsistent in where he plants his landing leg, sometimes planting it down and facing his catcher and sometimes planting it down pointing towards the on-deck circle. These minor things throw off his weight and balance distribution, giving him trouble repeating his release point, causing his control to suffers and his velocity to periodically diminish.

Viall’s fastball is his bread-and-butter, a pitch with movement that sits 92-98, sitting 94-97 MPH. The pitch has, at times, topped out in triple-digits, though as a starter, Viall obviously has to pace himself. Thanks to his height and the length of his arms, Viall’s fastball has angle and appears even faster to hitters, as he gets good arm extension and the ball has less distance to travel. He complements the pitch with an 81-86 MPH power curve and a circle change with decent fade and tailing motion. His curve is his best and primary secondary pitch; while he has a good feel for the change, he does not feature it much during in-game action.

Looking To 2019

Snapping tricep syndrome does not require surgery, but Viall will need to do tricep-specific stretches before and after throwing. In addition to concentrating on these exercises, the big right-hander will need to continue concentrating on repeating his mechanics and cutting down on the free passes. Despite missing quite a bit of time, I expect Viall to be promoted to St. Lucie.

The Countdown

4. Nabil Crismatt

5. Daniel Zamora

6. Jose Moreno

7. Marcel Renteria

8. Ryder Ryan

9. Yeizo Campos

10. Tommy Wilson