Jonathan Villar: Elvis Andrus for dumpster divers

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Astros shortstop does a lot of stuff the Rangers guy does, and he does it all way cheaper.

I've been in this keeper league with some ex-work buddies for a long time. Though I've never kept him, I've had Elvis Andrus in that year for the last five seasons. There's no power there, but he gets on base, scores runs, and steals bases. So long as I have the occasional Jose Bautista or Pedro Alvarez, I can afford a shortstop who doesn't fill all five categories.

This year, I have Elvis Andrus again. Except this time, he goes by the name Jonathan Villar, and instead of an early sixth-round pick (Andrus' ADP in ESPN leagues), I was able to grab him with one of my last picks.

Villar, a rookie last year with the Astros, is going to have to do a whole lot of baseball things to make people forget the Buttslide. Admittedly, funny stuff. But hey, I wouldn't want to be remembered only by my unfortunate encounters with posteriors. Anyway, Villar played 58 games a season ago. The following table shows Villar's rookie-year line, and Andrus' line from his first 58 career games:

PA BA R HR RBI SB
Jonathan Villar, 2013 241 243 26 1 8 18
Elvis Andrus, 2009 207 266 28 3 12 11

Nope, that's not a perfect comparison, because things are always different and no two guys are the same guys and ages and sample sizes and park factors and Bigfoot and Agatha Christie and whatever. I get that. But in five pro seasons, Villar has stolen 17, 45, 34, 39, and 49 bases. He's quick, and he's pretty ballsy about it.

As for the other fantasy factors, he hit for more power in the minors than he did in Houston - he'll admittedly never be a power hitter, but 8-10 homers is more than Andrus' four or five. He projects as a worse hitter for average than his higher-drafted compatriot, because, while he ought to have a higher BABIP, he strikes out super-way more often than someone with his lack of power should. And without guys like Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre, and Alex Rios around him, Villar's runs-scored opportunities won't be as plentiful as Andrus'.

On the other hand, Villar is a blazing fast 22-year-old with a full-time job (at least until Carlos Correa comes up, which is a year away at least). His power was admittedly awful last year (.319 slugging, .076 ISO), but he does project to improve down the road as he matures - he kept his minor-league slugging in the high-.300s, low-.400s, and his ISO in the mid-.100s, for much of his time.

The thing about owning Andrus was that I needed him to basically be Full Andrus to get a good return on my early-ish draft pick. When he was hitting .237/.294/.281 through late June last year, my pick wasn't just bad; it was a disaster, and I needed him to put up the .302/.360/.377 he tossed out there over the rest of the year just to come close to breaking even, and even then he needed a career-high in stolen bases to give me that much.

Villar, meanwhile, is going 16th among shortstops, somewhere in the 200s overall. He's coming in just after Derek Jeter and Jimmy Rollins. If he hits like first-half-of-2013 Elvis Andrus, not getting on base enough to utilize that speed (putting it here again, because wheeeeee), oh friggin' well, no skin off my teeth. But if he can get even close to his more optimistic projections - a .320ish on-base percentage, 10 or so homers, in the vicinity of 40 steals - he's easily a low-end starting shortstop. And getting that late in the draft let me get Pedro Alvarez in the round that Andrus went in.

Villar is owned in only 52 percent of Yahoo! leagues. His upside is well below Billy Hamilton's, and a bit below the Everth Cabrera and Jose Reyes (when healthy) types, but if he performs near his peak, he's a category keep-you-contending-er, if not quite a category winner. And he's cheap.

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