Throughout the minor league season, I will be writing about a prospect every Monday who has reached the AA level or higher that could be on your fantasy roster by season's end, and what you should know about them. There's not exactly a ton of prospects being blocked right now in Houston, and shortstop prospect Jonathan Villar could be very interesting for fantasy owners should he get called up this season.
Weight: 195 lbs.
On 40-man Roster: Yes (1 option used)
Age as of 6/3/13: 22
Villar signed out of the Dominican Republic with the Phillies in 2008 for a mere $105,000, and debuted that year in the Dominican Summer League. He split time between two short season leagues in 2009 as an 18 year old, stealing 17 bases in 42 games. Villar was included in the 2010 Roy Oswalt trade, sending him to Houston. The Astros promoted him from Low-A to High-A upon the trade, and he finished the season with a .260/.322/.362 line with five home runs and 45 stolen bases.
The Astros continued to move him quickly, sending him to AA 47 games into the 2011 season. His power began to blossom, as he had 28 extra base hits in 86 games. Unfortunately, his pitch selection needed some work as he struck out 156 times between two levels that year. He returned to AA to start the 2012 season, and was hitting better (.261/.336/.396 with 11 HR, 39 SB in 86 games) when he punched a door during a game and broke his right hand. He missed the rest of the season, but was moved up to AAA for the 2013 season, where he's hitting .267/.326/.417 with four home runs and 17 stolen bases so far.
The Scouting Report - Scouting reports are gathered from other internet sources and written reports, unless otherwise noted.
Villar has shown an excellent tool profile already, with above-average speed to go with decent power. On defense, he is widely expected to stay at shortstop, showing a plus arm and excellent range at the position. The knocks on him right now seem to point to a lack of mature skills, and multiple reports I read mention an inability to "slow the game down" yet. Strikeouts have been a problem (never below 23% as a professional), but given the power potential are not a huge surprise. Overall, the tools are there to be an above-average regular in the Majors, but his approach at the plate and that inability to slow the game down could keep some of the tools from playing to their potential.
What's Keeping Him From Contributing Now?
Marwin Gonzalez, and a desire to not start his service time clock perhaps? Realistically, the Astros are not going anywhere, so the organization is better served by letting Villar continue to work on some of his deficiencies at the AAA level rather than in the Majors. His defense is still considered a bit below where it should be given his tools, and the approach does not sound like it has improved drastically just yet. Also bear in mind that Villar has a pair of shortstops coming up behind him in Nolan Fontana (currently at High-A) and top pick Carlos Correa (at Low-A) that could supplant him in another two to three years.
When Could He Arrive?
It seems extremely likely to me that Villar will be up at some point during the season, but that it may not happen until we get closer to September. The Astros added Villar to the 40-man roster last offseason, so at worst he should see that callup in September.
What Could He Do For Fantasy Owners Once He Gets There?
Villar has the potential to provide 15-20 home runs in a full season to go along with 30+ stolen bases, although it will likely come with a low batting average (.240-.250) range. From a shortstop, that could still move him into the top 15 next year. However, the batting average risk also leaves risk with the other stats, as they could drop below if he only hits in the .220-.230 range instead.