When the Padres acquired Chase Headley from the New York Yankees this offseason, it was immediately implied that the former Padre himself would man the hot corner come Opening Day.
Headley was indeed Andy Green‘s selection for the third base job out of spring training, but a recent slew of struggles on his part has opened up the race to be the Padres’ everyday third baseman.
That race should be coming to an end.
After hitting three home runs and essentially leading the Padres to their first victory of the 2018 season, Christian Villanueva has put himself in a prime position to take the reigns of the hot corner and keep them all to himself.
Once considered a top prospect for the Cubs, the 26-year-old Villanueva has now hit seven home runs in his first fourteen career games and gives the club a legitimate power bat that they need.
Defensively speaking, the difference between Headley and Villanueva is minute and he should be able to hold his own from a defensive standpoint. Villanueva has had some on base woes in the past, but with an overall improvement to the team’s offensive approach, we should see his approach improve and hopefully lead to better results.
Christian Villanueva's third of the night. Seventh Padre' to hit three home runs in a game and second rookie to do it in franchise history. Seven home runs in 14-career MLB games. #MLB #Padres #Friars #MexicanPower pic.twitter.com/ftyrTGeRiV
— Mexican Baseball (@mexbaseball) April 4, 2018
It all but makes sense that Andy Green gives Christian Villanueva opportunities at third base. If he can develop into a remotely good major league player, the Padres could view him as their third baseman of the future. Throwing away at bats on a veteran that will be gone after this season, and has little to no trade value, just doesn’t make sense when they could be going to the progression of a player that has a shot of being apart of the team’s future plans.
Prior to his complete destruction of the Rockies pitching staff, the Padres planned to use Villanueva primarily against lef- handed pitching. Similarly to Hunter Renfroe, Villanueva has proven in the past that he has more success against southpaws than against right-handers. However, after this showing, Green should have confidence in his abilities to have success against both right and left-handed pitching.
If the team is truly building towards the future, the logical thing to do is to make Villanueva the starter. Chase Headley is just not a better baseball player then him, and even if he was, the difference between the two is not very big. Allowing the 26-year-old rookie to get at bats and develop as a player benefits both the club now and the future. If Villanueva struggles? No big deal, the race will open up once again as competition is always good for a young team. However, with what we have seen thus far from him, the third base job is Christian Villanueva’s to lose and he isn’t planning on giving it up.