The Mexican native is 25 and was once (2011) a Top-100 prospect according to Baseball America, when he was in the Texas Rangers organization. He was signed to a minor league deal by the club on Thursday.
A.J. Preller has familiarity with this young man from his Rangers’ days, and it isn’t strange at all that the team took a chance on him.
The Padres presently are very weak at the third base position in the minor leagues. Villanueva will probably start the season in El Paso, as he will provide the team a veteran-type presence who has an outside chance at a major league roster spot one day.
The right-handed hitter puts the ball in play generally and is well regarded as a plus defender at third base. He missed all of last season with a broken leg, but is reportedly back in good health and ready to continue his career. Given his age, there is every reason to believe he can regain his form.
He projects as a utility-type player if he progresses well enough to make it to the majors. He is not a star in the makings, nor is he going to save the day for Padres fans in the 2017 season, but he could be serviceable. At this point, the team needs fill its roster with players like this and see which of them progresses. In the same way the team secured Ryan Schimpf last season, Villanueva could be a surprise in 2017. He could very well get at bats with the team in 2017 and with that, you never know what will happen.
Take a look at his minor league numbers. Nothing spectacular, but at the same time, nothing horrible either.
Now looking at some video of Villanueva. You can see an obvious hitch in his swing. Some scouts are not sold on him hitting at the higher levels because of this timing mechanism, but he has shown the ability to make contact consistently. The jury is still out at this point.
The Padres are going to have to work on his mechanics slightly. There is also the factor that he is coming of a leg injury. Hopefully, that does not mess with his swing and/or balance at the plate. Take a look at this video below in particular and you will see the “hitch” in his swing.
Preller is aware of who this young man is, and the signing makes sense. Villanueva provides depth for the team as mentioned, and he has an outside chance at a roster spot eventually. There are rumors of a Yangervis Solarte trade, so if he were to be dealt, the team will need someone to man the hot corner. Schimpf, Cory Spangenberg, and Carlos Asuaje are all capable of playing third, but each are left-handed hitters.
Having a right-handed hitting third baseman against a N.L. West division that has the likes of Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner might be a positive thing. There is a long road before Villanueva is given a 25-man roster spot, but just food for thought. Take a look at this video of him and you will see the hitch again during game action. He has the ability to drive the ball to the right side of the field, and you can see how he usually makes contact as his swing allows the ball to go deep into the strike zone.
The 2017 year will be interesting. Do not expect a championship run, but do expect to see a lot of quality baseball, as this young Padres team continues to progress. The minor league system will be exciting to see, as all the minor league depth takes the next step towards one day playing at Petco Park. The future is bright for the Padre. It just might take a little while. Have patience Padres fans. Have patience. Christian Villanueva is not the next Nolan Arenado, but he could provide the team with a decent player at a fraction of the price. At this point, the team is looking for diamonds in the rough and after a slight polish, this 25-year-old could be one of them.