Jonathan Villar: What Now?

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The Astros have been busy this offseason, adding pieces at positions that desperately needed an upgrade over last season. In December, Houston added Jed Lowrie to play shortstop, a position that was manned by both Marwin Gonzalez and Jonathan Villar in 2014. With Gonzalez being the more versatile of the two, it’s likely that Villar will find himself outside of the 25-man roster at the outset of the 2015 season.

Jonathan Villar is just 23-years old, and has a lot of potential to be a solid contributor at the major league level. His performance in 2014 was borderline dismal, batting just .209 with 8 home runs and 27 rbi while seeing his on-base percentage drop from a .321 mark in 2013, to an atrocious .267 last season. Add in the 18 errors committed in the 82 games he played, and there wasn’t much of a redeeming factor for his overall 2014 performance.

All that said, when he was called up in September, Villar showed some improvement. In 38 at-bats, he hit .263 with a .333 OBP, which is similar to the stats he accumulated while in his stint in the minors, batting .258 with a .363 OBP in 51 games with Oklahoma City. While Jonathan Villar showed improvement, the stats he accumulated over this small sample size are still not as good as those that Gonzalez put up over a full season in the majors. MarGo hit .277 with 6 homers and 23 rbi while getting on base at a .327 clip. While his power numbers are lower than Villar’s the Astro lineup doesn’t necessarily need any more power bats.

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With Lowrie, Gonzalez, the newly acquired Luis Valbuena, and Matt Dominguez all ahead of Villar on the depth chart, he’s a long-shot to make the team, barring injury. So what should Houston do?

Plan A should be to start him in Fresno, and see if he can continue to develop as he did in his stint in the minors last season. With Jeff Bagwell attending Spring Training as a guest instructor, Villar could learn a little about his approach at the plate. That approach consisted of striking out much less than the current 28.5 percent clip that Villar has over his time in the majors.

Plan B would be to trade Villar, but right now certainly isn’t the time. His value is diminished due to his recent performance in the bigs, and it will take some time to build that value up. The Mets need a shortstop, and while they may be targeting someone like Troy Tulowitzki down the line, Villar wouldn’t cost the farm, and has yet to appear on the disabled list. A Jonathan Villar on the rise could be an option for them to consider.

As I do with all Astros players, I root for him to succeed. Yet with the impending arrival of Carlos Correa, time is running out for Villar to make his case to stay with Houston. Only time will tell if Villar has one more shot to make an impact at Minute Maid Park.

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