Jonathan Villar broke out in 2016, as he not only led the major leagues in stolen bases with 62 (and caught stealing, with 18), but also posted a career best .826 OPS with 19 home runs while playing solid defense across the infield at shortstop, third base and second base. The Brewers acquired Travis Shaw over the offseason, and his presence combined with the callup of top prospect shortstop Orlando Arcia will lock Villar into the starting second baseman role for 2017. The Brewers ran wild in 2016, and there's little reason to believe Craig Counsell's philosophy will change drastically in one year, so expect another big stolen-base total from Villar. The biggest questions, however, pertain to the sustainability of his power production, and the significant improvement in his walk rate, which jumped to a career-best 11.6 percent last season. Most likely, he'll give some home runs back in 2017 after his HR/FB rate nearly doubled from 10.0 percent in 2015 to 19.6 percent last season.
Villar will be the starter at second base in 2017 following the acquisition of Travis Shaw, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. With Shaw claiming the hot corner from Villar, at least against righties, the 26-year-old will take over for Scooter Gennett as the starting second baseman for Milwaukee in 2017. Villar made starts at shortstop, second, and third base last season, and his versatility will likely lead to him seeing occasional starts at third and shortstop this season.
Villar blasted a two-run homer for his only hit of the night in Wednesday's loss to Texas. He's on another power burst, having ripped three in the last three games to bring his season total to 19 -- that's nine more than Villar hit in the prior three seasons put together. Those homers look awfully nice next to the infielder's 60 steals as he continues rounding out one of this season's most impressive (and unexpected) stat lines.
Villar hit a pair of home runs and knocked in five runs in a in a 3-for-4 game Monday against the Rangers. Villar had drove in more than two runs just once this season, when he hit a pinch-hit grand slam against Pittsburgh on Sept. 4. Hitting at the top of the lineup, he hasn't been privy to regular RBI opportunities. But he managed his second multi-homer game Monday and now has 18 home runs on the season after hitting just 10 over 188 games in his first three seasons. Wherever Villar ends up in the Brewers infield, he looks to have a bright future in front of him.
Villar is out of the lineup Friday against the Cubs. His fantasy owners have had nothing to complain about, but Villar has done some things in the field and on the bases all season long that have surely irked manager Craig Counsell. He has three errors and 10 strikeouts over his last seven games. Hernan Perez will get the start at third base and hit fifth Friday.
Villar went 1-for-3 with a solo homer and a steal in the Brewers' 6-4 loss against the Reds on Tuesday. The homer was Villar's 16th of the season, and the steal, after reaching base on an error, gave Villar 54 on the year to bring him within shouting distance of league leader Billy Hamilton's 58. Villar is also batting .292 with 81 runs scored on the year.