Jonathan Villar & Junior Lake: Deep League Wire

As we close in on the Major League trade deadline, non-contending teams are making moves to open up spots for their prospects. This is a blessing for deep league owners as finally there are more choices available to pick up besides fifth outfielders and the last man in the bullpen. Both the Astros and Cubs are looking toward the future and have recently introduced us to some new faces.

Jonathan Villar | HOU SS | 5% Owned

The Astros gave Ronny Cedeno the boot on Sunday and with Marwin Gonzalez having been demoted in late June, the shortstop job is now Villar’s. The 22-year-old has excellent speed, as he stole 31 bases in just 90 games at Triple-A this season, which follows 39 steals in 86 games last year at Double-A. He also possessed a bit of pop, typically flashing ISO rates in the mid-.100 range between .140 and .165. A speedster who isn’t a complete zero in the home run category (like a Jarrod Dyson) doesn’t come around often, especially for deep leaguers to scoop up for free.

Villar debuted on Monday and was immediately installed in the leadoff slot, where he hit again yesterday. Though he has posted some acceptable OBP marks in the minors, including this year’s .342, it might not last. He strikes out too frequently for a hitter with mediocre power and he required a .358 BABIP to post that BABIP mark. His walk rates look to be about league average, but if he only hits .250-.260, that is going to translate to an OBP in the .320 range which isn’t exactly leadoff material. That said, while he might not last hitting atop the lineup, his speed makes him a must-add in deep leagues.

Junior Lake | CHC SS/3B | 10% Owned

Lake’s position eligibility likely depends on your league. He played in 20+ games at both shortstop and third base last season, 20+ at third base this season and has already played 4 games in the outfield with the Cubs. He could potentially have some nice multi-position eligibility which is extremely valuable in a deep league. David DeJesus‘ shoulder injury and the Cubs desire to clean house has given Lake an opportunity to play every day in the outfield. After hitting sixth in his first three starts, he found himself atop the lineup on Monday and yesterday.

The 23-year old’s skill set isn’t all that different than Villar’s. His primary fantasy contribution will come from his sped, as he stole 14 bases in 40 games at Triple-A this year and a whopping 56 bases back in 2011 with just 6 caught stealings. Like Villar, Lake also doesn’t make enough contact for a hitter with his middling power. Unlike Villar, however, Lake doesn’t have the same plate patience and has posted below average walk rates. This makes him even more ill-fitted for the leadoff spot. He does have some power though and since he has a slightly larger frame than Villar, he will probably be a slightly better contributor in the home run category.

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Mike Podhorzer produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

14 Responses to “Jonathan Villar & Junior Lake: Deep League Wire”

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  1. Emcee Peepants says:

    I think Junior Lake’s name alone raises his star probability by at least 15%. It seems like he could be a .260/.310/.430 guy with 10-15 HR and 30 SB in a full season with 130+ strikeouts, making him a low-end Ian Desmond. I could also see a complete flameout after a hot first week and him wasting his awesome name by August. Either way, he seems worthy of a flier considering he has 18 points this week already in my CBS league.

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    • Cliff says:

      It would seem he’s more like a .240/8/25 type guy who likely gets 2-3 starts a week as a utility player. I don’t think he’s anywhere even remotely close to Ian Desmond. If he put up half the numbers Desmond has the last 2 seasons, the Cubs would likely be happy with that.

      And yeah, he’s 1-for-17 in his last 4 games.

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  2. Brett W says:

    The Cubs do not see Lake as an infielder, and he will only play the infield in emergency situations going forward. For dynasty players, count on OF eligibility only after this year.

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  3. arrjcee says:

    Hey Mike, I’ve been considering adding one or both of these guys as I have a big need at SS. I currently have Alcides Escobar and Ben Zobrist but need to use Zobrist at 2B. Would you drop Escobar for Villar or Lake (he is eligible at SS in my league)? I’ve pretty much had it with Escobar; he’s not even stealing any bases at this point. Do you think Villar or Lake make better ROS options given their upside?

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    • I don’t have a problem with that. I worry about both of their strikeout rates though. I’d prefer Villar due to the better walk rate.

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      • arrjcee says:

        Thanks Mike! I went with Villar – he seems like the safer bet given his better plate discipline and higher steal rate, plus seemingly guaranteed PT.

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  4. akermite says:

    In Wiers’ writeup on Elmore he pointed out how much the Astros have been running, despite poor success rates. It makes Villar all the more intriguing. I’m thinking about swapping Dyson for Villar, since Dyson has been losing time to Lough and often batting ninth, while Villar is batting leadoff for a team with no other viable SS options. (This works because Dyson is in my OF, but Zobrist is currently my SS, so he can move.) Thoughts?

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    • Of course you make that switch!

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      • akermite says:

        The enthusiasm of your response suggests that I should have mentioned the offensive stats my league uses: R, net SB, K, OBP, SLG. Given Villar’s propensity for strikeouts, and the fact that we count two rate stats, the value of a bad hitter getting a lot of at-bats just for stolen bases isn’t so cut-and-dried. Dyson may be more valuable in providing SB’s in minimal AB’s.

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  5. Legend of Zoilo says:

    In this situation, I think being conservative is foolish. Go for upside! There’s a good chance they both end up sucking. These are waiver-wire fliers on guys making their MLB debuts after all. Villar has speed, but Junior has speed and dingers. Dingers baby! Also ZIPS likes Junior by a substantial margin.

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  6. Bwood says:

    Replacement needed in my OF… I can fairly easily gain points in RBI and Runs, BUT just lost CRUZ.
    Better replacement for ROS and as a keeper… Lake or Calhoun?

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