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Jonathan Villar Called Up, Named Starting Shortstop

J.A. Happ is in Toronto and Brett Wallace has been a disaster- Jonathan Villar is the last hope for the Roy Oswalt trade return. Is he likely to be a big league contributor?


Jonathan Villar is an enigma. His tools are undeniable and his defensive skills occasionally jaw-dropping, but his lack of polish has made him a streaky player who is hard to back fully. He's an electric athlete who can range to both sides and fire lasers across the diamond. He has plus speed and is a terror on the basepaths. He has an extremely quick bat and can put balls into the seats, but his erratic play has held him back and prevented him from being him a top prospect. Is he destined to be a streaky, frustrating player for the rest of his career?

For all of his warts there is one thing that detractors generally fail to mention about Villar- his age, and consistent youth in relation to his league. That's still the case- Villar just turned 22 in May, and he's making his major league debut tomorrow, presumably. Though he racked up strikeouts in AAA, he has shown a steady downward trend this season and in his last 152 plate appearances (June and July) he has struck out just 33 times- a very manageable rate. His tools have not diminished as he has moved up the ladder, and this season his speed on the basepaths has been as impressive as ever, with 31 steals in 38 attempts. He has also turned his wheels into 8 triples on the year, and that part of game should translate to the majors very readily.

Villar is a switch hitter, and he even has some modest power in his game. He has 8 home runs this year and his ISO is an above average .166. Villar could hit near the top of the Astros lineup given his speed, and his ceiling is that of a solid 2-hole hitter. An important thing to keep in mind with Villar is that at both AA and AAA he has taken significant time to adjust before settling in and raking. This isn't a major concern, and in fact shows that he is capable of making adjustments effectively, but it's important to give the newest Astro some time before jumping off of his bandwagon if he struggles early. Braves star youngster Freddie Freeman had similar trouble jumping to new levels before settling in as an above-average regular.

As was stated earlier, Villar is an enigma. His tools are legitimate, and for stretches he can look like a star on both sides of the ball, but the overall numbers tend to point more to a hot-and-cold, frustrating player who grades out as average to slightly above overall in the long run. If you want to dream, he could lock himself in as the starting shortstop and push Carlos Correa to third base. On the other hand, he could turn out like Tyler Greene, another toolsy shortstop who showed promise in the minors but had trouble making consistent contact. For now, all we can do is sit back and enjoy the ride.