Gone are the days of Jean Segura gracing the dirt at the no. six position. The Brewers will have a new Opening Day shortstop this season, following the trade a few weeks ago of Jean Segura to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
This is one of the more stable positions that fans and pundits seem to have a firm grasp of, meaning they know the player likely to receive the duties. As the cards fall now, it looks as if the spot belongs to Jonathan Villar.
Acquired in a trade from the Astros for pitcher Cy Sneed, Villar is now reunited with his former Astros assistant GM David Stearns in Milwaukee.
The Brewers’ options at shortstop are limited – for the time being. That will not be the case in the span of three years, as a stocked farm system is filled with a plethora of middle infielders, including prized possession Orlando Arcia, who will likely be taking over the reigns next season at short.
However, as we currently stand, Villar is the only player who seems to be ready at the MLB level. Milwaukee acquired Javier Betancourt in the Francisco Rodriguez trade from the Tigers, but his skills remain raw and still require some tendering. The switch hitter Villar already possesses skills that translate well to a MLB diamond. He was also Houston’s starting shortstop in 2014, before the rookie phenom Carlos Correa took over.
Despite the Astros acquiring Jed Lowrie last winter due in part to Villar’s struggles, he received some playing time in 2015 and capitalized with better production, hitting .285/.339/.414. Villar also recovered some of his discipline and plate vision, cutting his detrimental strikeout rate, cutting his K-rate from 28.5 percent to just 22.7 percent.
Villar has speed and he implements it well on the base paths. As we mentioned, his plate discipline is a key cog to his game, walking at an 8.1 percent clip in 658 total trips to the plate (7.8 percent in 2015). He then takes advantage of those walks once he reaches base, as he’s stolen at least 34 or more bags in each season going back to 2010.
While not viewed as an incredibly skilled defender at shortstop (career -6 DRS, -19 UZR in 1344 innings), Villar will be asked by the Brewers to be nothing more than a fill-in at the position for this year. Orlando Arcia, the Brewers top prospect and no. six in baseball, is looming in the Minors and the position already has his name on it. Arcia will begin the year at Triple-A Colorado Springs. He may receive some garbage time in the latter part of the year as a September call up, but expect Arcia to be taking over the show come Opening Day 2017.