Jonathan Villar took Ryan Braun right down to the wire for the first spot in our poll, and not surprisingly, ran away with the vote for second most valuable.
Villar played in 156 of a possible 162 games, second only to Chris Carter for the Brewers, and 20 more than the next closest. He played 108 games at shortstop, 42 at third base, and 11 at second base. (Wait...that’s 161 games! Well, Villar is so good that sometimes he plays at more than one position in the same game!)
Villar was baseball’s stolen base leader this year, with 62 steals. He also led baseball in caught stealing, but pssh...third base can be very alluring to a young, inexperienced major leaguer. But a 77.5% success rate is fine, and with an offense that struck out a major league record 1543 times, getting extra bases was a must. His baserunning could be over-aggressive at times, especially early in the season - he tied for the major league lead in outs made at third with 5. That doesn’t include caught stealing at third - he also led the majors in that category with 5, all by himself.
Jonathan also was one homer short of reaching a very elite milestone, a 20 homer/60 steal season. He doubled off the wall in his second at bat in the last game at Coors Field - had me holding my breath. (Ricky Henderson accomplished that 4 times, Joe Morgan twice, and Eric Davis once. Of course, Henderson played about 50 seasons, so...)
Villar was a very good lead-off hitter. His OBP of .369 led the position players (tip of the cap to Chris Capuano), and his OPS of .826 was second of those that finished the season with the club.
Villar led the team in runs scored, and was third in RBI. His 38 doubles led Milwaukee, as did his 79 walks.
Defensively, Villar showed good range at short but made some errors on routine plays - but what young player doesn’t? He had to change positions when Orlando Arcia joined the team, and struggled at third, both with fielding the ball and throwing. His 12 errors at third left him with a .881 fielding percentage. His work at second was much better, although it was a small sample size. He had no errors at second, and demonstrated good range at the position.
Villar is just coming into his prime years (he is 25). He is an aggressive player, much in the vein of Carlos Gomez. It would seem that Villar should be a strong producer for several years in the Brewers’ line-up.
It might be necessary for Villar to play a majority of his starts at third base next year. It would not appear that anyone in the Brewers’ system is ready to come up at that position, and the free agents available aren’t very exciting. Luis Valbuena will be available, and has some pop; and Aaron Hill is a free agent, too.
It was a great first year with the Brewers for Jonathan. I voted for him as the #1 MVBrewer, but finishing second to Braun is no slight. Unless your name is Matt Kemp.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs