Interview with Mets Pitching Prospect Chris Viall
If there is anything you can say about this Mets organization is that they like their tall hard throwing right-handed pitchers. Overall, you’d be hard pressed to find a pitcher as tall and as hard throwing as the Mets 2016 sixth round draft pick Chris Viall. This 6’9″ pitcher out of Stanford has pitched out of both the bullpen and the starting rotation, and he has been known to throw his fastball up to 101 MPH.
After being drafted, Viall was assigned to Kingsport where he showed the ability to rack up a high number of strikeouts. While Viall is preparing for his first full professional season, he was kind enough to answer some questions about how he is progressing as a professional pitcher.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me, and congratulations on finishing your first season as a professional pitcher. In your experience, what has been the biggest adjustment from pitching in Stanford to pitching in the minor leagues?
I would have to say the largest adjustment between collegiate and professional baseball is which roles I am filling. At the college level, I had to come in at different times in the game; sometimes in relief, sometimes starting. Now at the professional level, the Mets organization stresses having a set routine and a specific throwing schedule. I enjoy being able to have that set routine in order to most effectively prepare for my outings and improve my skills.
Do you feel the Mets program is more conducive to success than the program you had at Stanford?
I don’t think I can really comment as to which was more successful as the two systems had slightly different aims. College baseball programs have to be primarily focused on winning with player development coming in second. So far in the Mets organization, I have been working primarily to improve as a player. Currently, I am very happy to work towards focusing on improvement.
What specific things have you worked on in the past year with the Mets that would help you become a more effective pitcher?
I have been working on simplifying my delivery in order to make sure I’m always in control and linear towards home plate.
You mentioned you have both started and relieved. Which role do you personally prefer?
I enjoy starting. While I have relieved in games and am comfortable with that role, I enjoy being able to have a specific routine in the rotation and knowing exactly what my plan is every day. Being able to see batters more than one time in a game is also a plus as I am able to adapt and improve my gameplan with multiple innings of work.
For those that have never seen you pitch before, what type of pitcher should they expect to see?
They should expect to see a tall, hard throwing right handed pitcher with a good mix of fastballs, change-ups, and curveballs.
Tall indeed. Baseball Reference has you listed at 6’9″. Is that accurate, or are you a little taller than that?
As of the last time I checked 6’9″ in bare feet is accurate, although I haven’t really challenged that number for awhile, most doctors’ height measurement devices max out around 6’6″.
I’m sure someone has asked you this before with how tall you are, but I’ll ask it to you anyway. At your height, why baseball instead of basketball?
In high school I originally played both sports, but in my junior year I decided to focus only on baseball. It was around that time that my velocity increased and my secondary pitches became more solid, so it was the correct decision at that time.
What are the advantages and disadvantages your height presents to a pitcher?
I think the main advantages I have are the ability to easily throw faster and the steep angle that I throw the ball to the plate. The only disadvantage I have experienced is that being taller introduces some coordination issues (such as repeating the same motions), but I mostly overcame this shortcoming when I got used to my height and increased my strength training load.
One of the things that stood out when you were drafted was your velocity. How fast is your fastball?
My velocity varies. Last season in starts I was generally 93-97, but in relief appearances my fastball touched as high as 101.
Overall, who has had the biggest impact on your career?
Mark Eichorn. He was my pitching coach through high school and helped me tremendously on both the physical and mental side of the game.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received how to succeed as a pitcher and make it to the major leagues?
That would be to trust the process and set a goal to improve every day.
What are your goals for the 2017 season?
Increase strike percentage and increase pitch diversity. I’m moving away from just trying to overpower batters, as though that may work now there will be a point where I won’t be able to rely so heavily on my fastball to get batters out.
What has been your favorite memory as a baseball player?
My favorite memory was when I threw at the Stanford summer baseball camp going into my senior year of high school. I had always wanted to attend Stanford as it was about an hour away from my house and a great university, and walking off the field talking to Coach Stotz about my future at Stanford was an amazing moment for me.
Who was your favorite player growing up?
Growing up my favorite player was Matt Cain.
Do you try to model your game after his?
I don’t try to emulate his mechanics, but I do try to pick up on the way he goes about his outing. Cain seems to have a controlled bulldog mentality that toughens under adversity, and I try to bring that into my game as well.
Last year, former Mets minor leaguer Nicco Blank made a name for himself for leaving tickets for Taylor Swift to see him pitch. What famous person would you like to come see you pitch?
I guess I’ll keep the trend going and stick with Taylor Swift.
Are you inviting Taylor Swift because you’re a fan of her music?
To be honest I don’t really know many of her songs. I just want to keep the streak alive.
Do you know where you will be assigned next year?
I am not yet sure where I will be assigned.
I appreciate Viall taking the time to answer my questions while he is preparing for what should be a promising 2017 season. Given his arm and his ability to strike people out, he has a real future in the Mets organization, and I believe I speak for all Mets fans when I say we wish him well.