Can Jonathan Villar Bounce Back ? 2B Preview for the Brewers
Phoenix ~ In 2016 Jonathan Villar was ripping his way through a breakout season, en route to hitting .285 with 19 homeruns, and a National League high- 62 stolen bases- in a breakout season.
After his surprising season, Villar made a big gamble on himself around this time a year ago by signing a greater contract than offered, in which he would get more money if he repeated his a 2016-caliber season in upcoming years. After the season ended, Villar was offered a contract extension from the Brewers that guaranteed him something around $ 20 million, something large for such a player that had only earned $ 1.3 million at that point. But the chance to gain even more money if he played up to his last season’s performance was too much to take up for him and his agent, and they took the bet.
To say that the gamble didn’t pay of is a complete understatement. After missing the beginning of last season’s Spring Training due to his play off the bench for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, Villar never got on track in 2017 and his season was a disappointment. In 2017 he batted just .241 with a .293 on base percentage to go along with 11 homers and only 23 steals. Villar entered the season as the everyday second basemen, but quickly fell to being a backup thanks in part to contributing little offensively. His dreadful performance at the plate eventually led to GM David Stearns to acquire Neil Walker at the trade deadline to boost depth on the right side of the infield.
What changed Villar’s two season’s in Milwaukee from good to dismal were his high amount of strikeouts, and low amount of walks. He put the baseball in play a lot less often last year rater to what he did in 2016. In 2016, Villar’s K-rate was a high 25.6%, and rose to an even higher 30.3%. His walk rate plummeted from 2016 to 2017, as it went from 11.6%, to 6.9%. A statitistic that most likely explains these two decreases in his game: Villar swung at 5 percent of pitches to him that were outside of the strike zone. He also made a ton of mistakes on the base paths, which cost him some playing time.
Villar lost most of his playing time to Eric Sogard, and Sogard will likely be pushing Villar for the second base spot this spring also, as he signed a 1-year, $ 2.4 million contract. Sogard joined the Brew Crew as an unsigned free agent, prior to his five years in Oakland as an Athletic. Sogard surprised many with his ability to just get hits. He finished the season with a .273 batting average and a .393 OBP after a rough second half due to an ankle injury that put him DL. His defensive abilities at second and short are what completed the package with Sogard, and what made Milwaukee resign him.
Utility man Hernan Perez will also be fighting for an everyday spot at 2B with the Brewers this year. Craig Counsell’s Swiss Army Knife was acquired in 2015 off waivers from the Detroit Tigers, and has played every defensive position but catcher. Perez proved out to be one of the best defensive corner outfielders and second basemen in the National League last season. However, Perez, like Villar, has not taken many walks in the past few years. He has only taken 3.7 percent of his at bats for walks in his big league career. Perez also needs to get on base more – his OBP was only .289 in 2017. His batting average last season was .265, and he did hit 14 home runs. Perez has provided the Brewers with plenty of value in his utiltity role, but he wants an everyday spot at second base in 2018.
Any way it goes, the Brewers will have plenty of depth at second base this season. If Villar’s off season work shows, Milwaukee will gain another bat in their potent line-up. All in all the Brew Crew should be successful at second base.
By Jacob Szczap