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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

FANTASY BASEBALL STOCK WATCH: JONATHAN VILLAR SS MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Cheap speed, cheap speed, cheap speed.  In this era of small ball where home runs are way down and it seems ace-like pitchers go deeper then ever, the stolen base has become a bigger weapon in today's modern game of baseball.  While steals are down as well so far in 2016, those who can swipe bags at a high rate have always been of chief importance when it comes to fantasy baseball.  Perhaps the biggest evidence of this is the ridiculous price tag attached to Billy Hamilton before he even began a season in the majors due to his insane minor league steal totals.  As much as we all lust after steals however, I have always stayed true to the strategy of avoiding pure stolen base specialists over the years such as Michael Bourn, Scott Podsednik, Rajai Davis, and others.  The reason is that each and every season we find more than a few guys who come out of nowhere to become assets in the stolen base column for the price of a free agent claim.  Recent examples center on Billy Burns, Jarrod Dyson, and Ben Revere.  2016 has been no different as a few names have emerged with some high rate of steals in the early going and better yet, they have come at the very shallow shortstop spot.  Two weeks after I told you all to buy in on the post-hype 2016 so far being put forth from the Minnesota Twins' Danny Santana, the same situation is now firmly unfolding at the same spot in Milwaukee in the form of Jonathan Villar.  Never a big prospect to begin with, Villar bombed out of the Houston Astros organization for the simple fact hat he could not hit a lick.  It is impossible to steal first base which made Villar a non-factor as he batted .243 and .209 during some short stints in 2013 and 2014.  It was not until last season where Villar started to show some ability with the bat as he came up and batted .284 with 7 steals in 128 second half at-bats but again few were interested given how bad he looked previously.  Having moved on to Milwaukee during the winter, Villar remained a non-story as it was assumed he would just be keeping shortstop warm for top prospect Orlando Arcia. 

Fast forward to Tuesday night as Villar swiped two more bases to being his season total to 11 in just 131 at-bats.  Even better, Villar has batted a respectable .268 to help keep himself afloat in that category.  With the Brewers not planning to call up Arcia any time soon, Villar will continue to get the majority of work at shortstop and also continue to hit in the leadoff spot as long as enough hits continue to fall in.  Now in digging into the numbers, Villar has surely been helped by a very lucky .378 BABIP but guys with his type of speed often can beat the curve on that category.  The BABIP is a big help as Villar is striking out at a ton at 26 percent but he is also offsetting that with a terrific 12.2 walk rate.  So overall Villar has shown some nice growth at the dish at the still young age of 25 and he surely has earned daily status in fantasy baseball leagues on his speed alone.  Throw in precious shortstop eligibility and Villar has been a terrific early value.  Of course any extended slump could get Arcia up to the majors real quickly but for now continue using Villar liberally as the steals will continue to flow freely the way he has been playing. 

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