I was going to write this before the season started, but I was too lazy. Then Villar got off to a slow start, and I lost faith in him.
Hope is back! His recent offensive surge as reawakened the optimism in me. Oh, that "toolsy" shortstop has such a high ceiling...ahg...gag...cough...
I imagine that I am not the only Astros fan whose gag reflex kicks in when they hear that the team has acquired a "toosly" player. Under the past ownership those "toolsy" players seemed to never have the "solid contact tool" or the "get on base tool" which always rendered their "speed tool" and their "power tool" useless (if they happened to have a power tool). Anyway, these weren't just Ed Wade players or TJ Steele. I'm thinking of guys that let me down from '90s and early 2000s, players like James Mouton and, to a slightly lesser extent, Brian Hunter, Roger Cedeno, and Willy Taveras. As soon as the organization called a player 'toolsy" or stressed his tools it meant that he could run (which may or may not translate into good base stealing and good defense) with a smidgen of power. I never heard the Astros call Bagwell (a hit for high average with power get on base and steal efficiently with good fielding, guy) a "toolsy" player. So naturally my mind grew to define "toolsy" as "bench player / pinch runner", and "non-toolsy" as "player that gets the job done but would make a poor wide receiver."
Is it any surprise that I longed for Vicodin when I found out that Oswalt, arguably the best Astros pitcher ever, was traded for a "toolsy" young shortstop?
At some point in the off season I took a look Jonathan Villar's profile and was actually impressed with his overall offensive performance last year. Having read so many articles and comments here at TCB, I knew that any poor performance from Villar could be excused because he was very young for his league, which would buy him a few seasons of sucking before being declared a failure. So with his age in mind, I was very surprised to see that he had .320 OBP and nearly an 8% walk rate. I was expecting a .270 OBP and a 2% walk rate. And so my bias against Villar softened, especially since he has raised this season's production (all of which has been in AA) to resemble his production last season which included 207 at bats at Lancaster. My hope that Oswalt wasn't just given away for Happ and Wallace is renewed (not to mention those two are showing signs of life). In the end, Villar will only be a starting caliber player if he can play good defense at short. He has a few more years to grow and learn. It doesn't seem impossible for this "tootlsy" player to avoid the fate of other Astros "toolsy" prospects and turn into a .270/.340/.400 shortstop who can have a 70% success rate at stealing bases while playing good defense.
Since that is still a possible outcome for Villar... is it crazy to think that another team may covet him enough to overpay in a trade? I've heard this idea floated about in regards to Jimmy Paredes, but Villar is in a similar position. Both players are currently blocked by better players at the MLB level, and if Lowrie can be extended for 3 or 4 seasons, Villar, with Mier, Correa, and Fontana all behind him, will be expendable. I'm not advocating trading Villar this season, and extending Lowrie doesn't mean the Astros will be forced to trade Villar because he is still so young that he may need another 2 or 3 years in the minors, but dealing him won't cripple the minor league system. I would think the Astros might be able to buy something interesting for a package that starts with Villar and Paredes. I'm thinking a cost controlled starting pitcher. What do you think? Do these players have more value to us than they do to other clubs? Do these "toolsy" players from the previous regime fit the desired mold of the new front office? Is my general dislike of "toolsy" players irrational? Is underwear overrated?