San Diego Padres: Christian Villanueva Breaks Record
By Nick Stevens
San Diego Padres third baseman Christian Villanueva is having an up and down season, but his record-breaking home run on Saturday night points to good things for the rookie.
A deep shot to left-center field off the end of his bat marked Christian Villanueva‘s 13th home run of the year. The two-run home run from Alex Wood broke the Major League Baseball record for most home runs by a Mexican-born rookie. The San Diego Padres’ third baseman extended his record two innings later with a solo shot off Josh Fields.
Villanueva entered Saturday night’s contest tied with former Baltimore Orioles’ catcher Geronimo Gil with 12 home runs. Gil, born in Estacion Lagunas, Mexico, played five seasons with the Orioles before finishing his career with the Colorado Rockies.
His 12 home runs in 2002 broke Erubiel Durazo‘s previous record for home runs in a season by a Mexican-born player (11). Gil finished his MLB career with 19 home runs.
As of Sunday morning, Villanueva’s 14 home runs are tied for fourth in Major League baseball. Only Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, Manny Machado, and Bryce Harper have more jacks than the Padres’ rookie.
Among rookies, Villanueva leads all first-year players in home runs, leading New York Yankees’ Gleyber Torres by five.
Villanueva ranks third among rookies in runs scored (22), first in runs driven in (31), first in ISO (.329), second in slugging (.570), third in wRC+ (142), and second in WAR (1.1). He’s making a convincing case for the National League Rookie of the Year Award.
What does the future hold for Christian Villanueva?
Saturday night’s game was a prime example of the ups and downs that fans feel towards Christian Villanueva manning the hot corner. Immediately before hitting his 14th home run of the season (and second of the game), Villanueva was charged with two errors on the same play. You read that correctly. Two errors. On the same play.
After bobbling the pickup, he airmailed the throw to first, nowhere in the vicinity of first baseman Eric Hosmer.
Is Villanueva, who turns 27 later this month, the third baseman of the future for this franchise? No, he’s not. However, the only third baseman down on the farm who has a chance at breaking through into the majors is Hudson Potts. Potts is only 19 years old and currently plays with the High-A Lake Elsinore Storm.
Should the team decide to re-sign Freddy Galvis, Fernando Tatits, Jr. would surely challenge for the starting third base job next season, but at least for now, the Padres seem to be focused on preparing Tatis for his role as the future shortstop. He has played all 47 games in San Antonio in the six position.
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Regardless of Villanueva’s future, he’s performing well for the team now. Despite the shaky defense, and noted struggles against right-handed pitching, Villanueva leads the Padres in WAR, home runs, wRC+, wOBA, and slugging. Enjoy the show right now, Padres’ fans. Villy, Villy!