Top Milwaukee Brewers Of The 2010s: Nos. 39-31
37. SS/2B Jonathan Villar
Few players in Milwaukee Brewers franchise history were more exciting, yet extremely frustrating to watch play the game of baseball than Jonathan Villar. If this were a list of those kinds of players, Villar would easily be in the Top 3, possibly even number one.
Villar came to Milwaukee by way of a trade with the Houston Astros prior to the 2015 season. David Stearns had just been hired as the Brewers GM and had previously been the assistant GM with the Astros, where he knew Villar well. So he brought him over to Milwaukee, who was in the beginning stages of a rebuild and had consistent playing time for Villar, something he no longer had with Houston.
So the Brewers sent Cy Sneed, a minor league pitcher, over to Houston to make the deal and the Brewers had their new shortstop for the 2016 season.
As the Crew’s shortstop, Villar had an excellent 2016 season and introduced himself quite well to the Miller Park faithful.
2016: 3.0 WAR
2017: -0.4 WAR
2018: 0.8 WAR
Total WAR: 3.4
Clearly, Villar’s best season in Milwaukee was 2016. He hit .285/.369/.457 with 38 doubles, 19 homers, 79 walks, and a 117 OPS+ that year and did an excellent job as the Crew’s leadoff hitter. He stole 62 bases that year, which led all of baseball. He was also caught stealing 18 times, which also led all of baseball.
Villar’s baserunning escapades were some of the most exciting, yet equally frustrating parts of that 2016 season. He was always looking to take the extra base, ill-advised or not, he was going for it. When he made it, he looked like a genius. When he was thrown out by 15 feet, he looked like an idiot.
A strong defender, Villar posted 5 Defensive Runs Saved in 2016 as a shortstop. But there was an even better defender down in the minors in Orlando Arcia, who came up late in 2016 and took over the shortstop job. As one of the best prospects in all of baseball at the time, Arcia was an easy choice over Villar at the position.
Still, after a productive year, the Brewers saw enough of Villar that they offered him a contract extension in spring 2017, with about $20 million in guaranteed money over an unknown number of years. He turned it down to bet on himself. He lost that bet.
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Villar moved over to second base, where he was nowhere near as strong defensively, and he also began to struggle offensively there as well. In 2017 Villar had an awful year offensively, which led to him losing his starting role and fans to grow even more frustrated with him.
Fans and coaches will put up with the frustrating blunders so long as a player is still being productive overall, but his -0.4 WAR in 2017 showed he wasn’t being productive.
Still, he had shown so much promise in 2016 that there was hope he could get back to those ways in 2018 and that 2017 was just a fluke. While Villar improved offensively and defensively in 2018, he still wasn’t close to his 2016 levels and the team had run out of patience with their contention window now wide open.
When the Milwaukee Brewers acquired Mike Moustakas ahead of the July trade deadline, the writing was on the wall for Villar. A few days later, the Brewers acquired Jonathan Schoop and sent Villar as part of the package going to Baltimore.
And so ended a turbulent tenure in Milwaukee, with Villar losing playing time once again, and being sent to a rebuilding team, where he can try to establish himself once more. Villar was replaced by Schoop, who was also frustrating for Brewers fans, but not for his baserunning blunders. He didn’t get on base enough to have any blunders.
Now on to another exciting, yet occasionally frustrating Brewers player.