Whether it was his years in Milwaukee, his time in Baltimore, or even Miami and Toronto, infielder Jonathan Villar has always provided excellent stolen base numbers. Regardless of whether he hit .284 or .188 or posted an on-base percentage below .300 or pushing .370, the speed has always been there. Regardless of his situation, he delivered. In every season from 2016-2019, he hit double-digit home runs with at least 23 stolen bases. He entered the conversation after stealing 35 bases between 2013 and 2014 but slipped back off after just seven bags in 53 games in the 2015 season. Then, it happened.
In 2016, he hit 19 home runs and stole a whopping 62 bases. Arguably, he was just as good, if not better in 2019, when he hit 24 home runs, scored 111 runs and swiped 40 bags. In 2020, two home runs and 16 stolen bases with a .232 average wasn’t super exciting, well, outside of the stolen base numbers. That was big. Now he heads to the Mets where he enters a largely unfortunate situation that pits him as the team’s super utility guy. By all accounts, if everyone is healthy, to begin the year, Villar won’t be in the starting lineup. There aren’t many elite stolen base assets these days, and one of them will need an injury or slow start to the year to find a regular role in the team’s starting lineup.
His career launch angle is 4.8 degrees, but in 2020, it dropped to 1.5 degrees. Now, with Villar’s speed, I’m not opposed to him hitting a few extra grounders. However, the bigger issue lies not in the direction and flightpath of the baseball, but more so the quality of the contact. His average exit velocity of 86.9 miles per hour was nearly two miles per hour lower than his previous low within the past half-decade. Furthermore, his barrel rate matched his launch angle from 2020, so yes, his 1.5 percent barrel rate was a steep drop from his 5.5 percent mark from 2016-2019.
In terms of his exit velocity, you can see here that while he typically hovered around league average, the majority of the 2020 season was spent below the red line.
The only argument to not enjoying a few more grounders from Villar is that despite an average-at-best batted ball profile, for his career,he’s posted a 16.2 percent HR/FB ratio. That’s pretty darn good believe it or not. Sure, a stint in Baltimore and Milwaukee helps, but still. His 2020 mark dropped to 7.1 percent, which didn’t help the power numbers, but more often than not, he fares well when he lofts the baseball.
The other interesting note is that while his strikeout rate jumped from 2019, it was more in line with his career marks. However, Villar was lucky that it wasn’t much higher. Take a look at the graph below, courtesy of FanGraphs:
Fortunately, his zone contact remained intact, even slightly better than recent years, but everything else doesn’t exactly point to only a slight increase in his strikeout rate. His O-Contact rate took amassive hit, and he even swung outside of the zone more. Additionally, his 14.8 percent swinging strike rate was the highest of his career. If he continues to miss out of the zone, and display a propensity to leave the strike zone, when he does find the field in 2021, strikeouts could be a major problem for the speedy infielder.
Villar has been a popular stolen base asset for years now, but this landing spot saps some of his fantasy allure. While he can play literally anywhere across the diamond, he’s going to need an injury or some poor performances to crack the lineup. When you look at the popular projection systems out there, it’s a major buzzkill that he didn’t fall into a better landing spot. Even in limited action, his stolen base numbers are lofty;well, projected to be lofty.
Courtesy of FanGraphs
His current average draft position (ADP), per NFBC data, is 171.74. In 15-team setups, he’ll cost you a mid-12th round pick, which is a tough price to pay for someone who, at least to begin the year, doesn’t have a guarantee or regular playing time. The flip side of that, is that should an injury occur, Villar is elite in fantasy baseball’s most fickle and sought-after category.
When you get to this point in the draft, Villar presents fantasy owners with quite a conundrum. He has elite upside in the stolen base department, but you’re selecting a starter for your fantasy team that isn’t a guarantee to be a starter for his actual team. However, there’s no denying Villar’s massive upside, and potential category-winning totals with a little pop as well.
You can dip your toe in the water if he slips but be careful paying full retail price for Villar and his situation.
THE BAT Projections Courtesy of Derek Carty
ATC Projections Courtesy of Ariel Cohen
Steamer Projections Courtesy of steamerprojections.com
ZiPS Projections Courtesy of Dan Szymborski