There is a Cubs’ prospect tearing up the Pacific Coast League and he is not making many headlines yet. INF Christian Villanueva is on fire at the plate. The soon-to-be 24-year old has gone deep in each of his last four games while shifting positions in order to accommodate Javier Baez’s switch to third base.
Christian Villanueva has rebounded nicely from a rough 2014 season that saw him start the year with Iowa. Villanueva struggled at the plate with the I-Cubs and when Kris Bryant was ready to be bumped up a level, Villanueva was sent back to Double-A Tennessee. Villanueva hit a combined .230/.297/.379 in 126 games between Iowa and Tennessee with 38 doubles and 10 home runs for a .676 OPS.
Villanueva was in big league camp this spring and went unnoticed with Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora garnering the headlines. Villanueva went hitless in 10 games, nine at bats, in the Cactus League with a RBI and five strikeouts.
With Bryant starting the year with Triple-A Iowa, it was back to Double-A Tennessee for Villanueva. And in six games he batted only .208/.321/.480 (5-for-24, two home runs) with a .780 OPS.
Christian Villanueva started turning things around when he was promoted to Iowa. In 13 games, Villanueva was 11-for-40 with two doubles, a triple and two home runs with five walks and seven strikeouts (.275/.356/.525) for a .881 OPS. Villanueva remained consistent in May and posted a .270/.325/.365 line in 22 games with four doubles and a home run for a .690 OPS.
Known more as a slick-fielding third baseman, Christian Villanueva has shown this year his time in Double-A last season was well spent.
Brian Harper, Iowa’s hitting coach, pointed out to MiLB.com that Villanueva has made “huge strides” since last summer. Villanueva has been more patient at the plate and is not chasing pitches out of the zone. Villanueva is waiting for a pitch to hit and making solid contact when he does. Harper was happy with the quality of the at bats Villanueva was having early in the season before balls started falling in for him.
Brian Harper pointed out Villanueva is “really a different hitter” than he was a year ago.
Christian Villanueva made his second straight start at first base on Thursday with Javier Baez at third. Villanueva was 2-for-4 with a double, a home run, three RBI, a walk and three runs scored.
The Cubs acquired Christian Villanueva, along with RHP Kyle Hendricks, from the Rangers in July 2012 for Ryan Dempster. Villanueva is on the 40-man roster but out of options after this season.
How he may or may not fit with the Cubs long-term is unknown at this point, but if he keeps producing at the plate and playing multiple positions in the field, he has a chance to be a valuable asset to the Cubs this summer.