Jonathan Villar is playing like a star. I don’t necessarily know if he is a star, but he’s definitely playing like one. A few weeks ago I wrote about how his stardom came from essentially nowhere, and frankly I’m surprised his performance hasn’t tailed off yet.
We’re less than a month away from the All-Star break, and Villar is still riding a .390 on-base percentage thanks in large part to an insane .401 BABIP. He’s MLB’s seventh-best shortstop according to WAR, has created 23% more runs than league average and has stolen more bases than anyone. Being one of the best players on a rebuilding Brewers team, which Villar is, isn’t of much significance, but he’s been more than that. He’s transformed into one of the best leadoff hitters in the game, even with Orlando Arcia‘s shadow cast over him since he arrived in Milwaukee.
Because he’s been so valuable to the Brewers, his future is even more questionable than it once was. It’s obvious that teams will be interested in him as the trade deadline approaches. Yet general manager David Stearns has said that there’s little motivation to trade him, and that makes sense. Villar is a young, controllable talent, and as Stearns stated, that’s the exact type of player the Brewers want right now. Still, trading him could net a sizable return for the same reasons.
If the Brewers decide to hold on to their diamond in the rough, moving him to second base seems likely. Villar’s days at shortstop are numbered and that’s not just because Arcia is almost ready to make his major-league debut. He’s a good defender, yes. That’s evident by his 3 Defensive Runs Saved this season (even though UZR has a drastically different opinion of his fielding abilities), but he’d probably provide more value at second. It’s a much easier position to field and doesn’t require many long throws, something Villar has had a problem with at times this year.
That, though, leaves Scooter Gennett on the outside looking in, and that, honestly, is the way it should be. To be frank, he’s just not a good player, especially in relation to Villar. He lacks OBP skills and his wRC+ has fallen in every season of his career. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Gennett traded if the Brewers decide to retain Villar. It would make sense.
Another option for Villar is to take over third base duties when Aaron Hill inevitably leaves, whether that be in free agency this winter or in a trade this season. There’s a low likelihood to that though, in my opinion. He’s shown some surprising power so far, but teams usually want their hot corner guys to be big boppers, and Villar definitely doesn’t fit that label. Stearns may have his own ideas for the position, though.
This dilemma is a good one to have if you’re Milwaukee, and it shows why teams take fliers on players like Villar. You never know what you have until you give them a shot.