Is Christian Villanueva an Everyday Starter for the Padres?

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(Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

Going into the 2017 MLB season, the San Diego Padres seemed to have a predicament on the left side of the infield. Without either a shortstop or third baseman of the future ready to play, the rebuilding Padres had to settle for what they had.

With the signing of Erick Aybar to a one-year deal in the offseason, it looked like the Padres were going to give the reins of the most important infield position to the veteran. That would not work out so well, as Aybar dealt with injuries throughout the year and was not productive when he was playing.

To kick off the year, the Padres went with fan favorite Yangervis Solarte at third. Don’t get me wrong, Solarte is one of the better players on the Padres’ roster, but at the age of thirty, he surely is not the franchise third baseman. Another player that often saw time at third base was Cory Spangenberg. While Spangenberg had a quality rookie season, his sophomore season was cut short with a few injuries, and the organization as a whole is unsure where Spangenberg will play. Not naturally a third baseman, Spangenberg saw a lot of time at second base and left field when the struggling Ryan Schimpf was sent down to the minor leagues and Carlos Asuaje emerged as a quality player. My point is this: the Padres do not have an everyday third baseman that is ready to make an impact at the big league level.

In September, the Padres called up 26-year-old Christian Villanueva from the El Paso Chihuahuas. This season with El Paso, Villanueva posted a .296/.369/.528 batting line with twenty home runs and 86 RBI. Villanueva is mostly known as a power hitter with an average glove that can make the routine plays consistently. His power did transition to the big league level, as in a short 12-game stint with the club, Villanueva blasted four home runs and drove in seven runs.

Now the real question comes to mind: Does Villanueva have what it takes to be the Padres leading third baseman next season? For starters, I would like to make it very clear that I firmly believe that when he is ready, Fernando Tatis Jr. will become the everyday third baseman for the Padres. He is simply too talented and is the team’s best bet at becoming an everyday star. That being said, the 18-year-old is still a few years away despite his immense talent. As for the rest of the Padres’ third basemen, I think Villanueva can be better than them all. Spangenberg is more of a utility player, and with Carlos Asuaje finally growing into himself and Luis Urias knocking on the door, it is likely that Spangenberg does not see a lot of playing time unless he is producing greatly. Yangervis Solarte is a prime candidate to be dealt at some point if the value is there as he is thirty years old and has a friendly contract. Padres manager Andy Green has experimented with Solarte, trying him at every infield position other than catcher and pitcher, and feels comfortable wherever Solarte plays.

Taking all of this into account, I think there is a real possibility that Villanueva can earn playing time this season. For starters, he is only 26 years old and has the potential to become something the Padres could really use, whether it be as an everyday starter or a rotational player. If Tatis Jr. does not pan out for some reason, or the team decides to keep him at shortstop, Villanueva could be an option.

Not only is he young, Villanueva is also very talented. Other than Wil Myers, and when he hits the ball, Hunter Renfroe, the Padres don’t have a ton of power spread across their lineup. Villanueva has the ability to drive runs in, and I envision him being a potential five or six hitter with the upside of potentially being a cleanup hitter. His glove may prove to also be an upgrade over the likes of Spangenberg, as we saw Spangenberg miss some plays that he should have made this past season.

Now, playing Villanueva from the beginning may be a stretch. He is still way more inexperienced than both Solarte and Spangenberg, and I think he is going to have to earn Andy Green’s trust by proving himself to be something before Green starts to throw him out there everyday. One thing that is for sure though: Villanueva has both the talent and potential to become the Padres’ everyday starter next season, and potentially, for years to come. Keep a watchful eye on this young man.

6 thoughts on “Is Christian Villanueva an Everyday Starter for the Padres?

  1. Winter:
    -Trade hand and Solarte to the Yankees for Torres
    Beginning of the Season:
    -Villanueva at 3rd, Torres at SS, Asuaje at 2nd and Spangenberg in the utility role
    2nd half of the Season:
    Tatis Jr. at 3rd, Torres at SS, Urias at 2nd and Myers at 1st. The outfield will be Pirella, Margot and Franchy Codero.

  2. How do you plan to handle RH pitching with this all RH lineup.

    I also don’t understand why the media and most saber type fans are so down on Schimpf, in basically one full season he hit 34 HR’s. His average was low but most of time he ealked allot also. He was never given a slot in the batting order like others. Cody Bellinger is going to win the NL ROY with 39 HR’s.

    Before you get down on me about liking the long ball, I have just heard for the last month about uppercut swings for the fences and high strikeout rates.

    I think Urias or Guerra should get a shot at SS to start the year with a platoon at 3rd base. Villanueva and one of our LH bats. Solarte can get near full time AB’s by moving around depending on who we face that night on the mound.

    1. Schimpf DID hit a bunch of HRs, but he also struck out way too much and if you don’t put the ball in play, you aren’t going to be successful. His OBP was .284 and he stuck out 70 times in 165 abs. That’s more than 42% of the time. There is no room for that in the lineup.

      1. Joey Gallo has the nearly the same stat line so far in his career at the same position over a 162 games. Not to mention he plays in Texas.

        What if Schimpf could raise his average a bit, say to .235, walk a little more, he would be near All-Star level. Joc Pederson won the ROY in 2015 with similar stats. Mark Reynolds has played 11 years with similar stats, and he improved finally. Stairs and McGwire if given a chance could help Schimpf IMO. Rob Deer played 11 years with similar stats.

        IMO, Spangy should be playing at 2B. We need LH/RH balance in our lineup. Spangy has average Power and plus speed that Asuaje does not bring. He is average hitter and fielder.

        I know he is older but but why can our new hitting coach be asked to help the entire team but Schimpf is a lost cause, I just don’t buy it.

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