Name: Christian Villanueva
Position: Third base
DOB: June 19, 1991
Acquired: 2009 International Free Agent
After signing with the Rangers out of Mexico prior to the 2009 season, third baseman Christian Villanueva made his official professional debut in the Dominican Summer League. But it didn't last long.
Villanueva played in only eight games with the DSL Rangers, going 5-for-24 with a double, six walks, and five strikeouts. He played his final game on August 8 before undergoing season-ending knee surgery.
The prospect spent the remainder of the year rehabbing his injury, and he eventually returned to action during spring training last March. While getting his first taste of state-side ball, Villanueva showed an advanced all-around feel for the game despite his lack of professional experience.
He stayed in Arizona the rest of the season, playing in extended spring training before joining the rookie-level Surprise Rangers' roster. As the club's everyday third baseman, Villanueva was among the circuit's most consistent producers, posting a .314/.365/.431 slash line in 51 contests.
If there were any lasting effects from the knee surgery, Villanueva certainly didn't show it.
When Villanueva initially signed with the Rangers, he was listed at 5-foot-11, 160-pounds. He's well beyond that now, standing a bit closer to 6-foot and weighing in at 204 pounds.
Also See: Rangers Minor League Notes (March 24, 2010)
Rangers Minor League Notes (June 1, 2010)
Rangers Minor League Notes (July 20, 2010)
Rangers Instructional League Notes (September 22, 2010)
Rangers 2010 breakout prospects (December 23, 2010)
Top Prospects, Top Tools (January 14, 2011)
Batting and Power: Villanueva shows a knack for making solid contact, and his advanced feel for hitting led to a .314 average with 14 doubles and two homers over 51 rookie ball games last summer. His quick hands and ability to adjust his approach depending on the situation give him a potential plus hit tool down the line. With some present upper-body strength, Villanueva currently shows good gap-to-gap pop that should develop into more home runs with time. His power has average (50-grade on the scouting scale) future potential.
Base Running and Speed: Villanueva is presently a fringe-average runner that is likely to lose a step once his body finishes maturing. Although speed will never be much of a factor in his game, he has good game awareness and swiped six bases in eight attempts last season.
Defense: The third baseman stands out amongst his peers with the glove in large part due to his excellent instincts. He has quick reflexes, soft hands, and he reads hops and positions himself well. His arm strength is a tick above average. While the defensive tools aren't quite elite, his instincts and quickness allow them to play up; Villanueva projects as an above-average defender at the hot corner.
Projection: When describing Villanueva's game, scouts often throw around phrases like ‘baseball player' and ‘just knows how to play the game.' Although the 19-year-old may lack elite tool projection, the bat and glove both have a chance to be better than average. He displays a solid all-around skill set that allows him to excel in game action despite his lack of experience. Villanueva should be able to stick at third base, but it's worth watching how his body develops over the next few years––his mid-section could get a little thick, causing him to potentially lose a step of range.
2011 Outlook: Villanueva's relatively mature body and advanced skills could entice the Rangers to give him an aggressive full-season assignment to Single-A Hickory out of camp. Where the club elects to place fellow third baseman Mike Olt will also factor into the equation, as they'll want to get consistent at-bats for both prospects. If Villanueva doesn't end up with the Crawdads, he will start in extended spring training before joining short-season Spokane.
|2009||DSL Rangers (DSL)||.208||24||1||0||3||2||1/1||6||5||.375||.250|
|2010||AZL Rangers (RK)||.314||188||14||2||35||30||6/8||13||42||.365||.431|
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