Jonathan Villar has enjoyed a very nice breakout year for the Brewers at the plate, batting .298/.377/.442 with 11 homers, 47 RBIs, and 50 steals while serving as the teams leadoff hitter.
However, Villar made his 25th error of the season in the 9th inning during Milwaukee’s 6-5 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday night, making it even more clear that third base is not the position for the 25-year-old player the Brewers acquired from the Astros over the off-season for minor league pitcher Cy Sneed.
Villar, who began the season as the Brewers’ shortstop, was moved over to third base the first week of August after the Brewers decided to promote top shortstop prospect Orlando Arcia. Shortstop wasn’t as smooth defensively either as people would like to think.
The throwing error made by Villar was his 8th at third base this season in just 189 innings of action at the hot corner in 2016. Villar has fielded 896 innings at shortstop this year, and at his current pace of errors at third, he would exceed his error total of 17 at shortstop at third by a pretty sizable margin,
If you take a look at the Brewers roster down the road and what it could be in the next few years, there is really not a spot for Villar. It’s becoming clear that he can’t handle the hot corner, and the Brewers have Lucas Erceg at Single-A Wisconsin right now, who just won’t stop raking that is a third baseman.
Arcia will handle the duties at shortstop, leaving second base as the most likely option for Villar. Scooter Gennett is currently Milwaukee’s primary second baseman, but that could be changed by Opening Day 2017. Putting Villar there would make the most sense, but then insteps another problem.
Isan Diaz, who was the centerpiece of a trade that sent Jean Segura to the Diamondbacks in January, is a second base prospect, and likely to be named the Brewers minor league position player of the year. At Single-A Wisconsin, Diaz has a slash line of .273/.367/.486 with 20 homers and 74 RBIs. It’s likely that he will start 2017 at High-A Brevard County or Double-A Biloxi, leaving him just a couple of years away.
Back in 2007, when current Brewers star Ryan Braun won the National League’s rookie of the year honors, he was a third baseman. He killed it on the offensive end at third, but just like Villar, not so much on defense at third. Braun made a total 26 errors at third in 945.1 innings before the team shifted Braun to the outfield.
Villar has played just seven career games in the outfield, and the Brewers farm system is loaded with outfield talent in Lewis Brinson, Corey Ray, Brett Phillips, Trent Clark, and others. Those names listed right there basically rule out moving Villar to the outfield and expecting it to be a long term thing.
You have to remember that Villar is also only 25-years-old, and this is his first real Major League season where he was sent back to Triple-A. He’s played just over 300 games, and he has shown flashes of turning into a 20-plus home run hitter on offense.
While it hurts to see Villar struggle on defense right now at third, it’s possible to become a better fielder, and we all know that. A luxury the Brewers have right now is that they can go through growing pains with Villar right now due to the team being un-competitive in a rebuilding phase right now.
Many have discussed the idea of the Brewers trading Villar for more prospects, but Brewers general manager David Stearns was quick to shoot down those rumors earlier this year, saying that the Brewers want to acquire players like Villar.
The Brewers have Villar under team control until 2021, and with the way he is playing right now, the team may want to keep him an extension that works best for the budget as soon as they can.
While we don’t know exactly where Villar will be on the diamond in a few years, it’s seems highly likely he will still be a Brewer.
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