Better Know a Cub: Christian Villanueva

Christian Villanueva was acquired by the Cubs for Ryan Dempster at the trade deadline in 2012. He wasn't the top prospect we all wanted (Randall Delgado), but I was fairly excited by the pickup. I almost always prefer positional prospects to pitchers; partly due to TINSTAAP, but mostly because successful position players are (on the whole) usually more beneficial to a team than pitchers. If we're getting a lottery ticket, I'll take the lottery position player almost every time.

A cursory glance of Villaneuva's minor league stats leaves a good amount to be desired. 20-year old prospects should clean up A-ball, and Villanueva only hit the league for a .278/.338/.465 line. He did show a good amount of power, though; 30 doubles and 17 home runs in 529 PA isn't at all shabby, and adding 32 SB (with 6 CS) he earned himself a fringe top-100 spot on Baseball America's list. 

I don't think he did enough to stay on that list in 2012. Instead of moving to AA at some point in his age-21 season, Villanueva played A+ leagues exclusively (Carolina League to Florida League). He outplayed both leagues, but barely: the average line in the Carolina League (where he spent the majority of the year) is .257/.327/.390 (and the average age is 22.5); he hit .285/.356/.421. He only walked 34 times in 520 PA, though, which is pretty depressing. 

Offense

I don't have access to advanced metrics, so I'm going to work off scouting reports mostly and what I can glisten from his stat sheet. Sickels praises his gap power (a claim evidenced by his high doubles total). Other reports I've seen say he has an average hit tool and about average power. He's got room to grow, though: a 5'11", 160 lb frame screams room to bulk up and put some hurt on the baseball.

From the youtube clips I've seen, he's got a pretty tight swing without a ton of excess motion. It almost looks like he's got a hitch to his swing, though. He's not the fastest player, either. One of the cheesecake scouting reports gushed about his speed, but looking at him, I don't see it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bJk9KPDLkU

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-wG-PdgEZY

Defense

The scouting reports are all pretty unanimous in praise of his 3B defense. There are even whispers of a toolkit that would enable him to play 2B (in which case he becomes a much, much better prospect). I don't care a ton about the errors at the lower levels. If Villaneuva can be even an average 2B, his bat makes him a pretty legitimate threat there. If he ends up being an above-average defensive 3B, he'll get by too.

Summary

Villanueva should start the season at AA. That means either Cerda is moving up to AAA to play 3B behind Vitters Cerda was taken in the Rule V draft (h/t to GW), so he's essentially got the job to himself unless Lake stays in AA (which would be a bad sign). If Villaneuva hits the Southern League like he hit the Florida League (I'm looking for a wOBA around .360 – .365), he'll be right on track. If not, he's got a pretty dim future. In the best case, Villanueva is agressively promoted to AAA when Vitters leaves and he gets 200-300 PA there. Christian is a player I'll be watching closely in 2013. 

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