Friday, March 3, 2017


One of the more incredible out-of-nowhere performances in 2016 fantasy baseball was the sudden rise to top tier status at the always shallow shortstop spot of Milwaukee Brewers speedster Jonathan Villar.  The failed Philadelphia Phillies and Houston Astros prospect found new life with the rebuilding Brewers last season but initially, Villar was only supposed to serve as a bridge to the arrival of stud prospect Orlando Arcia.  Instead what we witnessed was a jaw-dropping display of five-tool ability by Villar who would bat .285, hit 19 home runs, cross home plate 92 times, drive in 63 batters, and lead the majors in steals with an insane 63.  All from a guy who washed out in Houston when he batted a terrible .243 in 2013 and .249 in 2014 under a sea of whiffs.  So what happened here and is Villar to be totally trusted in 2017 fantasy baseball at his currently elevated 29.7 ADP?

First let's get the clear strengths out of the way and that centers on the speed.  Villar can run like the wind and so stolen bases and a high runs total leading off for Milwaukee this season are near locks.  90 runs and 40-plus steals are the easy calls, with the stolen base prediction serving as the floor.  Another 60 is certainly possible as manager Craig Counsell loves to run and Villar will have the green light to go despite being caught 18 times last season.  Instead we have to focus on the average and home runs which are not looking so repeatable by last year's standards.  As far as the average is concerned, Villar is still only a career .261 hitter in the majors but he has come in at .284 and .285 the last two years.  Guys with Villar's speed can often beat the BABIP curve and that is why his very lucky .373 mark there was not so shocking.  That is as high as a BABIP will go though, speed or no speed, and so Villar's average will go back on this alone.  Also Villar remains a big strikeout hitter as he put up a nasty 25.6 K/9 rate last season.  Again Villar will give back average on that as well and so a .265 mark is a better bet then going back over .270.

As far as the power is concerned, it may not be a shock that Villar has grown there as he moves into his prime.  Still 19 is an outlier number considering his career numbers both in the majors and the minors and so a slight loss there is possible as well.  Still I feel better about Villar holding his numbers in power more than in batting average moving forward this season.

When you put it all together, there is still a ton to like here with Villar but he always have to give pause on paying off a career season.  The steals and runs will be top-notch though and the power decent for a middle infielder.  The average maybe not so much but the versatility of being eligible all over the infield helps make up for this.  We would sign off on Villar in Round 3 but towards the middle and nowhere earlier.

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