Milwaukee Brewers Acquire INF Jonathan Villar for P Cy Sneed


May 29, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros shortstop

Jonathan Villar

(2) hits a double during the fifth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The trades continue! Just a day after sending Francisco Rodriguez to the Tigers for second base prospect Javier Betancourt, the Brewers made another move acquiring super utilityman Jonathan Villar for minor league pitcher Cy Sneed.

Frequent readers of Reviewing the Brew should be very familiar with Sneed, a fringe prospect who excelled between Low- and High-A in 2015 as a 23 year old.

Sneed held opponents to a .245/.286/.325 slash, and, as a college arm, could now move quickly through the Astros system. Sneed was a third round pick in the 2014 draft, and likely maxes out as a back-of-the-rotation talent who can take on a fair amount of innings.

Villar, who is just one year Sneed’s senior, was once a favorite to take over at shortstop for the Astros, though injuries at key times left him out of the running. He has many of the tools of a Big League talent, but still plays like a raw prospect in many ways.

A career shortstop, Villar also saw time at second base, third base, left and center field, where his speed lent itself to highlights almost immediately. Villar is a plus runner with 42 stolen bases in 198 games, with a passable 75% success rate. Villar does have a history of fielding troubles, posting poor fielding percentages in spite of above-average range and arm strength.

This, combined with a .236/.300/.353 career slash, could make him destined to fill an Elian Herrera-esque hole on the Brewers depth chart, albeit almost certainly with better defensive in the outfield and at shortstop.

Villar shows decent pop for a shortstop, with 10 career home runs in 658 plate appearances and more shown in the minors, but strikeouts have plagued his young career. His K rates have decreased in each of his Major League showings, however, from 29.5% in 2013 to 22.7% in 2015. Unfortunately, there is speculation about negative clubhouse presence when a Houston sports writer tweets something like this:

Of course this could be as simple as a personal beef, but the Houston Chronicle writer followed up the tweet by saying of Villar, ” he is very versatile, but his teammates will tell you he is a knucklehead.”

Even without possible clubhouse problems, the Astros had virtually no need of Villar’s talents, with infielders Luis Valbuena, Jed Lowrie, Jose Altuve, Marwin Gonzalez, and AL Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa all figuring into just three infield positions.

On the offensive side of things, Villar had easily his best year in his shortened 2015, when he slashed .284/.339/.414, but an unsustainable .360 BABIP inflated his numbers. Villar’s value likely hinges on his flexibility, though the Brewers could see him as a solution at second base, where his fielding hiccups would be less pronounced, and his range would play up.

Given his potential throwing issues, third base may be outside of Villar’s skill set, and he struggled at the hot corner in an admittedly minute sample size.

Given his speed, Villar is almost certainly a superior defender in centerfield than incumbent Domingo Santana, who is playing out of position. Thus, Villar could be utilized as a defensive substitute, something I anticipate seeing a lot of if Santana remains in center.

Villar, in a way, fits a mold the Brewers seem to have an excess of: light-hitting infielders with good defense. Yadiel Rivera, Luis Sardinas, Jean Segura, and potentially newcomer Betancourt are all defense over offense.

With the exception of Betancourt, any of these players could see time at second base in 2016, if the Brewers think Scooter Gennett doesn’t have a bounce-back year in him. All of them would be defensive upgrades. Villar brings offensive potential by way of some power and good walk rates, and undeniable defensive utility.

This also further opens the door further in the talks of a Jean Segura trade, which has garnered a lot of speculation recently. Given that the Brewers have stocked up on infielders the last two days, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Crew’s next trade was headlined by Segura.