If you’re a contending team who could use a few more runs and steals, look no further than Houston Astros shortshop Jonathan Villar.
Clichéd introduction aside, DUDE JUST STOLE HOME. Ran in Wei-Yin Chen’s face. When’s the last time you saw something like that from someone who wasn’t Bryce Harper trying to show up a veteran pitcher? (Answer: Probably last year still, or maybe 2011, but that’s not the point.)
Anyway, Villar is fast. He has recorded five steals in seven attempts through eight games (well, seven and a half, considering today’s isn’t done yet). He has also recorded six runs in only 31 plate appearances. That makes him on pace for, what, 130 runs? On a team that doesn’t really score.
I hesitate to call the guy a “spark plug,” as badly as I want to: the ‘Stros are a mere 2-5 in his first seven games. However, three of those losses came in one-run games. That’s more heartbreaking than anything else, but at least they made the A’s sweat a little, yeah?
Basically, his legs make him a legitimate fantasy asset in all rotisserie leagues because he will be continually productive on the bases (when he reaches them, that is). He also has some pop, averaging 10 or so home runs a season in the minors. He will ultimately be a batting average liability — he hit only .260 in the minors and has struck out in exactly half of all his at-bats so far — and may not be rosterable in head-to-head formats until he his adequately warmed up to major league pitching. However, don’t knock his eye too much: he has walked in roughly 10 percent of his plate appearances, as few as they may be, exceeding the MLB average of 7.8 percent. And, frankly, I don’t care how much he strikes out if his on-base percentage is .350.
On any other team, Villar might be confined to a platoon or bench role like Tony Campana or Stephen Lombardozzi. But the terrible, awful Astros will be sure to get their new starting shortstop plenty of playing time.
In other news: Don’t look now, but the Astros already have a lot of young talent…