For the second time in two days, the Milwaukee Brewers have traded for middle infield depth. Yesterday, the team shipped off Francisco Rodriguez to Detroit in exchange for 2B Javier Betancourt, and today, they landed SS Jonathan Villar from the Astros for RHP Cy Sneed.
General manager David Stearns has repeatedly stated the organization’s goal is to get younger, and it has wasted no time in doing so. Betancourt is 20 while Villar will turn 25 in May.
Because he is out of options, all signs point to Villar being on the major-league roster in 2016. But who exactly is Jonathan Villar?
Villar is a switch-hitting infielder whose versatility makes him a very intriguing acquisition for the Brewers. He’s capable of manning every infield position other than first base, and that includes the hot corner, a position Milwaukee desperately needs to fill.
Villar’s versatility “opens up options” for rest of Brewers offseason, Stearns said. Is everyday 3B one of those options? “Absoluitely.”
— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) November 19, 2015
In 658 career plate appearances, Villar has a .291 wOBA and 82 wRC+. He was, however, much better than that in limited action last season, as his 107 wRC+ made him an above-average hitter. He was aided by a tremendously high BABIP of .360, though, a mark Villar surely won’t be able to replicate.
Villar does have some pop in his bat, posting an isolated slugging of .144 and .129 in the last two seasons, respectively. Like most young players, strikeouts are an issue. In 2015, he struck out 22.7% of the time, and the holes in his bat were obvious. He swung and missed at 10 percent of the pitches he saw, and his contact percentage was below league average. Still, he managed a .339 on-base percentage. That’s something to be encouraged about.
He’s a similar player to Jean Segura — especially in terms of his ground ball rate — and that makes Segura even more expendable than he was. Brewers beat writers Adam McCalvy and Tom Haudricourt believe Milwaukee is interested in trading Segura to open the door for Orlando Arcia. Villar could be a placeholder while that transition takes place.
According to Stearns, trading for Villar “opens up possibilities in a number of different areas for what we can do the remainder of the offseason.” Like I said earlier, his versatility is what makes him so appealing.