San Diego Padres third baseball Christian Villanueva has quickly earned a spot on this year’s roster. The question now becomes, should he start over Chase Headley?
As a younger prospect, the scouting reports on San Diego Padres infielder Christian Villanueva were overwhelmingly positive. Take a look at what John Sickels of MinorLeagueBall.com had to say about Villanueva after he was traded to the Chicago Cubs from the Texas Rangers.
“Gold Glove potential at third base.” “Pop to all fields.” “A feel for the zone.”
Sickels also believed that Villanueva would develop into one of the top third base prospects in all of baseball. High praise from one of the more respected minor league talent evaluators.
Those scouting report comments were made five years ago. The late-blooming Villanueva is no longer a Top 100 Prospect (Baseball America), however, he is a young, talented third baseman who deserves a shot to start in the hot corner.
Christian Villanueva has had an outstanding spring training.
Through six Cactus League games, Villanueva is hitting .563 (9-16) with three home runs, 10 runs driven in, and four runs scored. He’s getting on base at a .588 clip.
His swing has been absolutely beautiful this season. Take a look at this grand slam swing from Thursday’s game.
No wasted movement. Quickly gets his hands through the zone, and squares up his body perfectly.
This swing is from today’s contest (Friday). He takes a pitch down and inside, nearly in the dirt, and is able to turn on it and nearly drive it out of the ballpark.
“I’m feeling good, right. I’m really focused on my discipline. I’m not focused on swinging at pitcher’s pitches. I’m focused on swinging at my pitches” said Villanueva through his interpreter after he exited Friday’s contest against the Kansas City Royals.
Villanueva entered spring training with the odds of making the team stacked against him. Now, fans are clamoring loudly for the 26-year-old to take over the hot corner.
Maybe Christian Villanueva is just a late bloomer.
He made his major league debut last season, appearing in 12 games for the Padres. Villanueva made the most of his limited opportunity, hitting .344 with four home runs in 32 at-bats.
Before earning his call-up to the big leagues, Villanueva was slashing .296/.369/.528/.896 with AAA El Paso. Each of those numbers was either a career-high or near career-high. He racked up 50 extra-base hits, including 20 home runs (tie-career high), 28 doubles, and two triples.
I don’t know for sure what type of player Villanueva is. What I do know is, he deserves a shot to start. The Padres began working him out at second base and shortstop in hopes of giving him some playing time this spring in the middle of the infield. Kudos to Andy Green for trying multiple ways to get Villanueva involved.
The roadblock in front of Villanueva is Chase Headley (and his $13 million contract). Acquired along with Bryan Mitchell from the New York Yankees, Headley is coming off a season in which he hit .273 and reached base in 35% of his at-bats. Odds are high that he won’t repeat that
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Since being acquired, the overwhelming sentiment seems to be that Headley’s real contribution to the team is his leadership. He can do that from the bench.
We’re all having fun with this #HotTalentLava mantra, but it’s an accurate description of what this team is made of. San Diego is not a playoff team in 2018. So why block a young player from getting his shot to contribute to the team.
The Friars don’t have a lot of depth at third base in the farm system. Sure, Fernando Tatis Jr might shift over to third, but I wouldn’t count on it. Chase Headley will be gone after this season, hopefully much sooner. Villanueva is under control until 2023.
Start him. Padres fans are focused on the exciting future of the franchise that lies before them. They’re not focused on a soon-to-be 34-year-old, average major league hitter.