Brandon Villafuerte was the longest of long shots to make it to the Major Leagues. He has the distinction of being the deepest round draft pick of the New York Mets to make it to the Show. The RHP was selected in the 66th round with the 1,564th pick in the 1994 draft.
It wasn’t the first time Brandon was drafted. The previous year, 1993, he was selected in the 37th round by the Florida Marlins, but did not sign. Brandon didn’t sign right away, and it wasn’t until May 2005 that he signed with the Mets.
He began to rise through the ranks of the Mets system and in three years (1995-97) he went from Rookie ball to low A to A ball and in 1997, he appeared in 47 games out of the pen for the Capital City Bombers of the South Atlantic League where he recorded a record of 3-1 and a 2.38 ERA with 7 saves, striking out 88 batters in 75 2/3 innings.
During spring training in 1998, Brandon was traded to the Florida Marlins, the team that originally drafted him five years earlier. He continued his climb through the minor league ranks and was traded again to the Detroit Tigers in July 1999. He was called up to the Tigers and made his MLB debut on May 23, 2000 against the Cleveland Indians where he was brought in to face Manny Ramirez. He got Manny to ground out to first for the final out in a 10-4 Tigers victory. His stay in the majors didn’t last long – his third and final appearance in 2000 was on May 31st against the Texas Rangers where he entered the game in the 5th inning with the Tigers down 5-1 and allowed 4 runs in 2 innings, including a 2 RBI Double to Ivan Rodriguez.
Getting roughed up by the Rangers apparently didn’t faze Texas, for they traded for him in the offseason and in July 2001, Brandon was called up to the big club where he appeared in 6 games. It was his final big league appearance against his former big league club, the Tigers, on August 8th that saw his ERA jump from 3.38 to 14.29. In just 1/3 of an inning, Brandon was roughed up for 7 runs – including allowing a 2 run HR to Deivi Cruz, the first batter he faced. He was pulled after allowing a grand slam to Shane Halter.
Following the 2001 season, Brandon was granted free agency and signed with the San Diego Padres. After pitching to the tune of a 2.02 ERA in AAA, he was called up to the big club in July 2002, where he went on to record his best numbers in the majors. In 31 games with the Padres that year, had a record of 1-3 with a 1.41 ERA and 1 save with a WHIP of 1.28. He appeared in two games against the Mets, the original team that signed him, on August 14th-15th. He got Joe McEwing to foul out in the only batter he faced on the 14th. He faced two batters on the 15th, allowing an RBI single to Vance Wilson before getting Mike Piazza to ground out to short to end the bottom of the 8th.
Brandon would pitch an additional 51 games for the Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks in 2003 and 2004, making his final MLB appearance on July 21, 2004 against the Houston Astros. He entered the game in the top of the 8th with his Diamondbacks down 2-0 and got Jeff Bagwell to strike out swinging to start the inning followed by Morgan Ensburg, who flew out to right. The rest of the inning didn’t go too well for Brandon – he allowed a two out single to Brad Ausmus before walking the next three batters (Andy Pettitte, Craig Biggio, Adam Everett). He was released by the Diamondbacks and granted free agency on July 25, 2004.
He was picked up the Giants in the offseason, but never made it back to the majors. He spent the next couple of seasons in the Giants and once again in the Marlins organization. He last pitched in 2011 for the Edmonton Capitals of the independent North American League.
Brandon appeared in 91 games in his Major League career, with a record of 1-7 and an ERA of 4.12 and 3 saves in 102 2/3 innings. He allowed 14 home runs in his MLB career, including home runs to Aaron Boone, Ray Durham, Preston Wilson (twice), Corey Patterson, Mike Lowell, and Adrian Beltre.
While he didn’t make it to the bigs as a Met, he did make it to the show and holds the distinction as being the latest round player drafted by the Mets to get his time in the sun on a Big League field.
(Photo: Christian J. Stewart)