Carlos Villanueva has come a long way from his hometown of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic to win MiLB.com's Class A Best Foreign-Born Player Award.
Although Villanueva is just 21 years old, the right-handed starter has already been through four Minor League seasons and two organizations since signing as an undrafted free agent with San Francisco in 2002. The Brewers landed him on March 30, 2004, and have been impressed by his makeup.
"He's a very mature player, plays above his age," Brewers farm director Reid Nichols said. "He has very good composure for a pitcher his age."
His last season, his second in the Milwaukee farm system, was easily his best. Villanueva went 8-1 with a 2.32 ERA and whiffed 124 in 112 1/3 innings with the Brevard County Manatees in the Florida State League. The 6-foot-3, 201-pound Villanueva relied on a bedeviling repertoire of pitches. He throws a fastball that hits the low 90s, a curveball, a changeup and a nasty slider that has Brewers brass salivating.
"Being in a pitchers' league really gave him a lot more confidence," Nichols said. "He has four pitches he throws for strikes and he has a good head on his shoulders. All of his pitches are approaching Major League quality."
Villanueva staked himself as an elite pitcher early in the season by winning four straight starts from April 28 to May 14 and honed a strong presence on the mound by watching several Major League greats.
"I like the intimidation factor of Pedro Martinez," Villanueva told MLB.com. "I also like to compare myself to a finesse pitcher like a Greg Maddux or Tom Glavine, so I'm trying to find a level between those types of pitchers. I just approach each game with a plan and try to execute it as much as I can."
His plan worked to near perfection for most of the season. Villanueva didn't suffer his first loss until July 11 against Dunedin and showed great composure by immediately coming back with double-digit strikeout performances in his next two starts.
Villanueva struggled upon promotion to Double-A Huntsville, posting a 1-3 record in four starts, but Milwaukee is optimistic he will adjust to a new level of baseball next season.
"I think he's just starting to come into his own," Nichols said.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.