Jonathan Villar is Houston Astros' shortstop of the future

Top prospect is hitting .304 with the Oklahoma City RedHawks after an early season slump.
by Michael Baldwin Published: May 7, 2013
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photo - Oklahoma City's Jonathan Villar (2) commits an error while trying to field a ground ball in the second inning during a minor league baseball game between the Oklahoma City RedHawks and the New Orleans Zephyrs at the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City, Thursday, April 25, 2013. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma City's Jonathan Villar (2) commits an error while trying to field a ground ball in the second inning during a minor league baseball game between the Oklahoma City RedHawks and the New Orleans Zephyrs at the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City, Thursday, April 25, 2013. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

“Johnny is a five-tool player,” said RedHawks manager Tony DeFrancesco. “He has good speed, a great arm and is a plus defender. And he can hit for power. We're just trying to continue to clean up his game, minimize his mistakes.”

One area that's a work in progress is Villar's defense. He's a slick fielder with good range. He makes dazzling, acrobatic plays but has committed seven errors, most early in the season, the majority throwing mistakes.

“He just needs to be aware what's going to happen before the ball's hit to him,” DeFrancesco said. “Johnny tries so hard to try and make the outstanding play. Sometimes there's no play to be made. Sometimes it would be best just to eat the ball.”

Villar has shown improvement the past two weeks after working on his defense with infield coach Tom Lawless.

“It's part of the development process for any talented young middle infielder,” Stearns said. “The first step is acquiring the knowledge. The second step is consistency. He's made major strides with his (defensive) consistency the past couple of years and we feel that progress will continue.”

Pitchers appreciate Villar's range. Villar routinely turns slow rollers past the mound into outs.

“(Villar) has terrific range,” said pitching coach Steve Webber. “Even though we play on a lot of fast infields, he still gets to a lot of balls. He turns a lot of double plays. He can narrow the holes on the infield for you.”

Part of the development process includes maturing.

Villar plays with tremendous passion but must control his emotions. He broke his hand last season after punching a door in frustration.

Once Villar adds some Triple-A seasoning, he's projected to give the Astros an offensive/defensive shortstop they can build around.

“He's a young guy who has plenty of time,” Stearns said. “This is his first crack at Triple-A. There's nothing wrong with being patient. He's doing everything he should be doing. We're very happy with how he's performing.”


by Michael Baldwin
Reporter
Mike Baldwin has been a sports reporter for The Oklahoman since 1982. Mike graduated from Okmulgee High School in 1974 and attended Oklahoma Christian University, graduating with a journalism degree in 1978. Mike's first job was sports editor...
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