Christian Villanueva is the focal point of every Friar faithful today and deservedly so. He single-handedly carried the San Diego Padres to their first win of the 2018 season.
Who is San Diego Padres third baseman Christian Villanueva?
Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, Christian Villanueva was signed as an international free agent by the Texas Rangers when he was only 17. Current San Diego Padres General Manager A.J.Preller, then a scout for the Texas Rangers, was instrumental in recruiting Villanueva. After a brief stint in Rangers’ farm system, including a 17 home run, 30 doubles, 32 stolen base season with their Single-A affiliate Hickory Crawdads, Villanueva was traded to the Cubs in 2012 (along with Kyle Hendricks) in exchange for Ryan Dempster.
Once hailed by Baseball America as a top one hundred prospect (2011), the hard-hitting right-hander was expected to make his Major League debut in 2014, however, knee injuries and the emergence of Kris Bryant kept Villanueva away from reaching the big leagues with the Chicago Cubs.
It was another injury that kept Villanueva out for the whole of 2016. Knowing what he was capable of, Preller elected to sign the third baseman as a free agent before the 2017 season. He had a turbulent start to the 2017 season when he had to miss time early on with the Padres to attend his brother’s funeral.
Villanueva immediately impressed, putting up a career year in the minors for AAA El Paso. In 398 at-bats, he mashed 20 home runs and slashed .296/.369/.528/.896. These numbers were enough to earn him a call to the big leagues where he hit four home runs in only 32 at-bats.
Christian Villanueva finally strikes gold for the San Diego Padres.
With no options remaining and a successful spring training under his belt, Villanueva earned a 25-man roster spot to start the season. Andy Green even began working him out at various positions on the field, in hopes of getting him more playing time during the regular season. It’s been assumed that newly acquired veteran Chase Headley had the third base job locked up.
That was until Villanueva pulled a Lee Corso “not so fast!” In last night’s contest against the Colorado Rockies, Villanueva parked three balls over the fence at Petco Park, guiding the team to their first win of the season.
In the process, Villanueva became only the seventh Friar to go deep three times in a game. The last rookie to achieve this rare feat was playing right field last night, Hunter Renfroe.
Here’s to continued success for the young third baseman. Immediately after the game, MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell reported that Villanueva will start again tonight.