What are the Padres’ Plans for Christian Villanueva?

Credit: AP Photo

Credit: Getty Images

Rookie infielder Christian Villanueva has played all over the place for the San Diego Padres this season. With so much youth on the rise and Wil Myers playing third base, what is Villanueva’s future with the team?

There has been a lot of commotion with the Padres’ lineup this month.

Wil Myers, returning from another stint on the disabled list, has returned and has played primarily third base, a new position for him, for over a week now. That has displaced Christian Villanueva, who had played 96 games at third base before Myers took over.

Since Myers’ return, Villanueva has played first base and second base while sparingly appearing at third.

With the eventual arrival of stud second base prospect Luis Urias, and Eric Hosmer firmly planted at first, where does this leave Villanueva’s future with the team?

Nothing official has been said on the matter, so this could be pure speculation. However, if the Padres are willing to make such a dramatic move as to put Myers at third, a position he had played fewer than 20 games professionally before, that says a bit about their opinion of Villanueva’s future with the team, at least at third base.

Where else would Villanueva fit? Along with Urias, Hosmer, and the imminent arrival of Fernando Tatis Jr. at shortstop, that does not leave much room for Villanueva aside from hoping the National League adopts the designated hitter.

Villanueva has more or less proven he can be at least an average third baseman in the big leagues. Give the 27-year-old rookie some credit as he has not yet turned in a full season of big league experience and he has 20 home runs with a 106 wRC+ this season at the plate, including some memorable moments, one which he made recently.

With the glove, there is no denying there have been some struggles. He has made 12 errors this season, but has managed to get his Defensive Runs Saved up to +5. He has clearly worked on his biggest weakness and has made it less of a liability.

All this being said, the Padres don’t seem to have him in their future plans, at least not as a starter. The Padres outfield next season will consist of Hunter Renfroe, Manuel Margot, Travis Jankowski, Franchy Cordero, Franmil Reyes, and other top prospects just around the corner, perhaps making it necessary to keep Myers in the infield.

Villanueva has played well enough to merit a chance to earn a spot next year. No one is saying he hasn’t. Villanueva has been a bit underappreciated for all he has gone through and is now being a slightly above average hitter with some power.

However, it’s clear the Padres are making plans that don’t include Villanueva as the starting third baseman.

Should the Padres trade Villanueva? He is under team control until 2023.

Villanueva has shown he can take criticism and improve at the plate. He was in an abysmal slump from May until July. Since July 25, he is hitting .290 with a 126 wRC+. During that stretch, he has shown he is not just a one trick pony as he has just one home run, but with four doubles and a .389 on-base percentage in those 20 games. He has also cut down his swinging at pitches outside of the zone by over 5%.

Where will Christian Villanueva be in 2019? I don’t think anyone knows at this point. A lot can still happen in the last six weeks of the season. Maybe the Padres hold onto him as a bench player with a power bat to pinch-hit late in games. Perhaps they still see him as an everyday player somewhere on the field. Or it could be that they are looking to move on from Villanueva as a big wave of talent comes in to compliment the major league talent that is already there.

He should play mostly every day the rest of this season, and we may get a clearer picture of the Padres’ plans before this season ends.

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Nick Lee
Native of Escondido, CA. Lived in San Diego area for 20 years. Padres fan since childhood (mid-90s). I have been writing since 2014. I currently live near Seattle, WA and am married to a Seattle sports girl. I wore #19 on my high school baseball team for Tony Gwynn. I am a stats and sports history nerd. I attended BYU on the Idaho campus. I also love Star Wars.

9 thoughts on “What are the Padres’ Plans for Christian Villanueva?

  1. If we’re gonna keep Villanueva, let’s get rid of Myers. That way we won’t have guys tripping over themselves for playing time and we can lessen the impact on our crowded outfield. Don’t forget the Mexican factor.
    One thing Preller has in his favor when trading, the Padres have a LOT of players under team control. Stay away from the free agents !

  2. The premise of your article is correct, that the organization doesn’t see Villanueva as the guy at 3b. Some other points are too optimistic.

    “Villanueva has more or less proven he can be at least an average third baseman in the big leagues”. No he hasn’t. See Greg’s comment for some of the reasons why.

    “Villanueva has played well enough to merit a chance to earn a spot next year. No one is saying he hasn’t. ” Well I’m saying it. A 27 year old, out of shape, one-dimensional hitter is not deserving of a roster spot. You don’t find players like this on good teams, and there is very little room for improvement for a position player at this age.

    “Villanueva has shown he can take criticism and improve at the plate.” No he hasn’t. A season is full of hot streaks and slumps, peaks and valleys. This is not evidence of an improved approach at the plate. We need to stop seizing on small sample sizes as proof of a new approach or a new normal level of performance. Or else let’s see the “so and so sucks beyond redemption” articles when a guy goes cold for 3 weeks.

    Teams that stick with 27 year old marginal players with serious holes in their games wind up with crappy records, and in constant rebuild. Churn through the roster to find the good players and move on from the marginal – that’s the stage we’re at.

  3. I think you’re giving Villanueva way too much credit. He is a one-dimensional ballplayer, and the sooner we recognize that, the better. Look no further than his lefty-righty splits:
    Left: .336/.392/.726, 1.118 OPS, 14 HR in 113 AB’s.
    Right: .189/.255/.319, .574 OPS 6 HR 238 AB’s, with 65 k’s.

    Bottom line: he is killing the Padres’ chances when he plays against RHP’s. If he had been batting even .250/.300/.400 against RHP’s (which still isn’t great), Myers would have already been back in the outfield, and Christian would still be at 3B.

    If Villanueva has any usefulness for the Padres into 2019 and beyond, it is as a utility infielder (1B, 2B, 3B), a productive bat against southpaws off the bench, and especially spotting Hosmer against some LHP’s.

    The only way I see him sticking around next year is if the NL adopts the DH, which would garner him more AB’s. In this scenario, he could get 200-250 AB’s per season as a productive platoon player against LHP’s.

  4. Trading Renfroe and keeping Villanueva would solidify our front office as maybe the worst in baseball.

    I wouldn’t rule out them doing it though. Everyone dreams we will trade guys like Pirela, Spangy, Reyes etc. but the reality is we haven’t traded those guys because noone wants them. Myers and Hosmer have untradable deals, so that leaves Renfroe and maybe Hedges as our only realistic trade chips.

    I think our biggest problem is that our organization is not good at recognizing and developing talent. And I’m not talking about drafting or trading for names on the top 100 prospect list any monkey can do that, I’m talking about what we do with them after that. The Mejia deal is a good example. Noone in the organization can figure out if Hedges is a good catcher or not, so one day we believe in him and the next day we are trading for his replacement, by day 3 Mejia is stuck in AAA because we think Hedges is good again.

    1. Sounds like Preller was more than willing to trade Renfroe and Hedges to get Chris Archer, so I see no reason why he wouldn’t use them as trade chips during the offseason. I think he feels a strong need to get a solid veteran pitcher for next season.

      1. I’m all for bringing in a top level starter, hopefully one even better than Archer. I think if a trade goes down Hedges or Mejia will probably be involved. I really hope we get to see a lineup with Myers, Hosmer, Renfroe and Cordero in it. If they all stay healthy it could lead to much better offensive output next year.

      2. To get a bonafide starter, we will have to give up a bonafide prospect(s) as well. We always overrate our ability to get better players by swapping marginal talent.

  5. I strongly suspect that the Padres will trade Renfroe and/or Reyes during the offseason as part of a package to get a starting pitcher. If this happens, I suspect Myers will move back to LF (where he has excelled) and Villa will be the starting 3B next year.

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