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Jonathan Villar: 2015 Fantasy Baseball Deep Shortstop Sleeper


A Sleeper If He Plays

Houston Astros shortstop Jonathan Villar is a deep sleeper this year. Out of the three shortstops in Houston, the other two being Jed Lowrie and Marwin Gonzalez, Villar is the only one who has any stand out skill - speed. The itch to develop Villar into a big league asset should set in rather early with Astros’ management.

In only 87 games last year, Villar snagged 17 SB. He stole another 24 with the Astros’ Triple-A affiliate in 51 games. It is not unreasonable to say Villar could amass 50 SB in a full season. That kind of speed is exalted in the fantasy baseball world.

Unfortunately, Villar is blocked on the depth chart. The Astros just signed a three-year contract with Lowrie and won’t want to just throw away that kind of investment. Lowrie will most likely limit Villar to pinch running duties early in the season.

However, Villar has a few more tricks up his sleeve that the other two shortstops can’t match. One of those is surprisingly decent power for a speedster. While in the majors last year, Villar hit seven HR with an intriguing .144 isolated power (ISO). Don't expect 20 home runs, but 15 blasts are possible. His combination of excellent speed and average power could catapult him into the top 10 at the shortstop position.

That being said, Villar has some serious work to do in both his strikeout rate and average. At every level, he has produced an alarming strikeout rate - never lower than 23.1% (excluding limited seasons in 2009). He has shown some potential to hit for a decent average in the minors but sported a very disappointing .209 in the majors last year.

I imagine a lot of his hitting woes last year are caused by his 70.1% contact rate. Villar needs to improve this area drastically. As a speedy infielder, his transformation into a contact hitter is crucial. This evolution will be hugely important to the development of his season and career.

Summary

Monitor Villar closely in the beginning of the season. You should see a steady number of SB despite limited playing time. When he does earn plate appearances, monitor the swing percentage statistics closely. If he shows signs of improvement, the Astros will most likely begin to involve him more in their offense. That will be the time to roster him.

If Villar were to earn his way into the starting lineup, his fantasy popularity will increase dramatically. Keep an eye on trade talks involving Villar, too. The Astros already have a crowded shortstop position and still have Carlos Correa lurking in the minors. Villar could be a good fit on a few squads. The Phillies in particular come to mine with Freddy Galvis struggling to produce at the major league level.