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. 


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.


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.


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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30 thoughts on “Better Know a Cub: Christian Villanueva

  1. 3

    dmick89 wrote:

    You know what? The best thing for the HOF may be that you end up with a list like I had above and nobody gets in. They’ll make changes if that is the case. There’s no way the HOF will continue to be associated with the BBWAA if there are upwards of 20 candidates on the ballot who belong in the HOF.

    I was thinking this the other day. Someone on Twitter was talking about the strategy of voting for guys ahead of other more deserving guys because it’s possible that some very deserving players may end up with less than 5% of the vote because of the glut of talent on the ballot and he wanted to throw a vote their way to make sure they at least made it to the next ballot.

    But what is happening seems to be the issue we had on our voting where the there are more than 10 worthy candidates, but nobody can agree on a ranking so they’ll all end up with less than 75% of the vote. It’s crazy.

  2. 5

    @ Aisle424:
    Yeah, that’s exactly what happening. The average voter only votes for like 4 or 5 guys so you have 10-12 guys on the ballot right now who should be in and those 4 to 5 votes are split. It will only get worse as more HOF qualified players become eligible. It’s entirely possible that in a couple years there will be 19 players who should be in the HOF who are on the ballot and none of them get voted in. It’s crazy.

  3. 10

    That guy should partner with the MLB so he can actually manufacture his designs and sell them. I think he’d sell the shit out of them.

  4. 12

    dmick89 wrote:

    @ Aisle424:
    I might buy one of those. Pretty sweet. Liked the Reds the best for the NL Central teams.

    I liked the Pirates best. 2. Cubs, 3. Reds, 4. Brewers, 5. Cardinals.

  5. 13

    I wouldn’t wear a soccer jersey, but it’s cool to see some imagination applied to such stodgy and conservative fashions and logos.

  6. 16

    I’ve heard a few people talk about how this could be a breakout year for Villanueva. I probably wouldn’t bet on it anymore than Lake or the other toolsy prospects the cubs have, but why not hope for the best. Considering how he was blocked in Texas by Beltre, then Olt, then Gallo, I don’t see it as too negative that he was traded.

  7. 17

    Andrew wrote:

    I’ve heard a few people talk about how this could be a breakout year for Villanueva. I probably wouldn’t bet on it anymore than Lake or the other toolsy prospects the cubs have, but why not hope for the best. Considering how he was blocked in Texas by Beltre, then Olt, then Gallo, I don’t see it as too negative that he was traded.

    As far as breaking out is concerned, I’m mostly going to look toward increasing his walk rate. I don’t have anything even approaching a reasonable sample size, but in the 95 PA he had with the Cubs last year, his rate ascended from 5.6% to 10.5%. He’s struggled at the plate for Obregon in his Mexican league this year, but Jason Parks (BP) is a huge fan of the glove. The more I read about him, the more I wonder if he could play 2B. The median OPS+ of a 3B with 81 or more games (if baseball reference had a feature to just query each team’s leading 3B, i’d use that) is 109 (of 24 3B. Guess who is 24th? Luis Valbuena.) The median OPS+ among 2B with the same distinction is 95.

  8. 21

    GBTS wrote:

    @ Aisle424:
    You can’t spell “Ass Cum Harry” without “Murray Chass.”

    You also can’t spell “Murray Chass is an insufferable shithead” without Murray Chass.

  9. 25

    @ Edwin:
    Not to defend him, but I didn’t see any inconsistencies. The 1998 article didn’t even bring up PEDs. Ass Cum Harry was a virgin at that point.

  10. 27

    A southern lady on a city bus had a headache and took a bottle of aspirin out of her purse. Before she could take out a tablet, the bus hit a bump in the road and the bottle went flying out of her hands in an unknown direction. “My as-purn, my as-purn!,” she shouted.

    “Don’t look at me lady, stick it out the window,” replied the bus driver.

  11. 28

    Rice Cube wrote:

    @ Aisle424:
    If he really is considering giving up his vote, then maybe it’s not such a bad thing after all.

    I agree, that’s the best possible scenario for everyone.

    I love that his reason people are second guessing the BBWAA is because they’re “envious” not because their sanctimonious Robespierre act is a complete shitshow.

  12. 30


    Major league pitchers with 200 or more career wins at the end of the 2004 season, all were drafted in the first three rounds of the amateur Roger Clemens 328 (1983, 1st round), Greg Maddux 305 (1984, 2nd round),Tom Glavine 262 (1984, 2nd round),Randy Johnson 246 (1979, 3rd round),David Wells 212 (1982, 2nd round), Mike Mussina 211 (1990, 1st round), Kevin Brown 207 (1986, 1st round)

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