Rookie infielder Christian Villanueva has played all over the place for the San Diego Padres this season. With so much youth on the rise and Wil Myers playing third base, what is Villanueva’s future with the team?
There has been a lot of commotion with the Padres’ lineup this month.
Wil Myers, returning from another stint on the disabled list, has returned and has played primarily third base, a new position for him, for over a week now. That has displaced Christian Villanueva, who had played 96 games at third base before Myers took over.
Since Myers’ return, Villanueva has played first base and second base while sparingly appearing at third.
Nothing official has been said on the matter, so this could be pure speculation. However, if the Padres are willing to make such a dramatic move as to put Myers at third, a position he had played fewer than 20 games professionally before, that says a bit about their opinion of Villanueva’s future with the team, at least at third base.
Where else would Villanueva fit? Along with Urias, Hosmer, and the imminent arrival of Fernando Tatis Jr. at shortstop, that does not leave much room for Villanueva aside from hoping the National League adopts the designated hitter.
Villanueva has more or less proven he can be at least an average third baseman in the big leagues. Give the 27-year-old rookie some credit as he has not yet turned in a full season of big league experience and he has 20 home runs with a 106 wRC+ this season at the plate, including some memorable moments, one which he made recently.
With the glove, there is no denying there have been some struggles. He has made 12 errors this season, but has managed to get his Defensive Runs Saved up to +5. He has clearly worked on his biggest weakness and has made it less of a liability.
All this being said, the Padres don’t seem to have him in their future plans, at least not as a starter. The Padres outfield next season will consist of Hunter Renfroe, Manuel Margot, Travis Jankowski, Franchy Cordero, Franmil Reyes, and other top prospects just around the corner, perhaps making it necessary to keep Myers in the infield.
Villanueva has played well enough to merit a chance to earn a spot next year. No one is saying he hasn’t. Villanueva has been a bit underappreciated for all he has gone through and is now being a slightly above average hitter with some power.
However, it’s clear the Padres are making plans that don’t include Villanueva as the starting third baseman.
Should the Padres trade Villanueva? He is under team control until 2023.
Villanueva has shown he can take criticism and improve at the plate. He was in an abysmal slump from May until July. Since July 25, he is hitting .290 with a 126 wRC+. During that stretch, he has shown he is not just a one trick pony as he has just one home run, but with four doubles and a .389 on-base percentage in those 20 games. He has also cut down his swinging at pitches outside of the zone by over 5%.
Where will Christian Villanueva be in 2019? I don’t think anyone knows at this point. A lot can still happen in the last six weeks of the season. Maybe the Padres hold onto him as a bench player with a power bat to pinch-hit late in games. Perhaps they still see him as an everyday player somewhere on the field. Or it could be that they are looking to move on from Villanueva as a big wave of talent comes in to compliment the major league talent that is already there.
He should play mostly every day the rest of this season, and we may get a clearer picture of the Padres’ plans before this season ends.