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How Is Jonathan Villar Progressing In His Repeat Of The California League?

Astros minor league shortstop Jonathan Villar has some rather lofty expectations to fulfill. With Brett Wallace and J.A. Happ being the "safe" acquisitions in the Roy Oswalt trade, Villar was the one with the incredible tools who could eventually be the star. John Sickels at Minor League Ball checked in on Villar's progress last week, and found some reasons for optimism even though Villar isn't tearing it up in Lancaster:

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Jonathan Villar was acquired by the Houston Astros in the Roy Oswalt trade with the Phillies last summer. The Astros are trying to bring more athletes into the system, and the Dominican shortstop certainly qualifies in that department: his raw tools are excellent, and scouts who like him project that he'll be above average on both offense and defense as he matures. His glove is especially well-regarded; some believe he could win Gold Gloves someday due to his range and arm strength. However, he's very error-prone at this point, with 11 miscues in his first 36 games for High-A Lancaster this year resulting in a .925 fielding percentage. At age 20, he has plenty of time to reduce the error rate.

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Villar appears to be making progress on offense: he hit just .225/.294/.372 at Lancaster after last summer's trade, but is hitting .267/.365/.382 this year, along with 19 steals in 24 attempts. Lancaster is a great place to hit and his OPS (.779) is 72 points higher at home than on the road this year. Villar has one of the highest physical ceilings in the Astros system, but I would be leery about promoting him too quickly, and I think a full year in High-A would be beneficial for him given his youth and remaining rawness.

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Really, there would be little point to promoting Villar this season. If he can't hit .300 with Lancaster's help, then AA pitchers will pick him apart. It doesn't look like much has changed with Villar this year: he's hitting a bit better, but he's still raw all-around and will need some time to focus those tools into skills.

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