He’s been the key acquisition in from the off-season for the New York Mets. Without him, you could argue the Mets would not be in first place with a 3.5 game lead in the National League East.
Jonathan Villar has proven to be the Mets’ most key off-season acquisition so far, and even when the Mets get healthier, Villar’s versatility and offensive prowess should keep him in the lineup.
Right now, what the Mets are doing is pretty remarkable. They currently have over 15 players on the Injured List (IL), and while for some teams that would mean the end of their season, the Mets are in pretty good shape.
As they get ready to go on a tough road trip that will take the team to Arizona, San Diego, and Baltimore, the Mets appear to be getting a bit healthier. Before Sunday night’s scheduled game versus the Atlanta Braves, news came out that power-hitting first baseman Pete Alonso would come off the IL and join the team for their next game. A few minutes later, the game was rained out, so that means Alonso will join the team in Arizona when they begin that series on Monday.
It was also stated Sunday night that outfielder Kevin Pillar and pitcher Seth Lugo would soon join the club. All three of those players will be key additions to a lineup that has been devastated by injuries and has had to rely on their bench players to get them through.
Yet the team is 25-20 and leads the division by 3.5 games over the Atlanta Braves.
One of the reasons for that has been their pitching, but the Mets have also gotten some contributions from their depth pieces; one example has been Jonathan Villar.
Villar’s role on the team coming into the season was to provide a solid veteran presence on the bench who could spare the starters from time to time. Due to the injuries, he’s had to do much more, and his play has been awe-inspiring, and that’s why I think he needs to stay in the lineup even when the Mets get healthier moving forward.
May was a good month for Villar as he saw 100 at-bats during the month after struggling a bit initially in 2021. In May, Villar hit .233 with an OBP of .340. His OPS was .759, over 100 points higher than it was in April. He also clobbered five home runs, drove in ten runs, and stole five bases. Not only that, but his defense has been stellar as well. He made an outstanding diving stop at third base in the Mets 13-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Saturday. That is just one of an array of fantastic highlight-reel plays that Villar has accumulated over the season.
Since the injury to Mets’ third baseman J.D. Davis, Villar has played pretty regularly at third base. On Monday, Davis is progressing from his injury, and that he started swinging the bat again on Sunday. Many have wondered where Villar will go once Davis comes back from his injury and if he will go back to being a bench player, the role he initially had with the team.
I believe Villar’s versatility will keep him in the lineup, as long as he continues to produce offensively. One position where he could potentially play is second base.
With regular second baseman Jeff McNeil out at least until the end of June with a hamstring injury, the Mets have a need at that position. Veteran Jose Peraza has filled in for McNeil recently and has been decent, but he does not provide the same punch to the lineup as Villar does. Plus, there are questions on how effective Peraza will be long-term at the plate.
When Davis comes back to play third, you could move Villar over to second and have Peraza come off the bench. That would be an excellent scenario, and while some think that Villar’s defense hasn’t been great at second base in recent seasons, I believe the Mets would sacrifice some defense for the offense that Villar provides. Plus, having Peraza on the bench strengthens that area as well.
I could also see Villar expanding his versatility a bit and moving to the outfield. He has played 15 games in the outfield in his career, 10 games in centerfield, and five games in left field.
If Pillar comes back in within a reasonable amount of time, like expected, and with newly acquired Billy McKinney Villar’s, it may not seem like there is a need for Villar to do that. McKinney, Dom Smith, and Pillar will most likely be the three outfielders getting the majority of the playing time, but there is a need for a fourth or fifth outfielder that can provide some offense.
The outfield options after Pillar, Smith, and McKinney are limited. Kahlil Lee and Cameron Maybin have struggled badly at the plate. Albert Almora, Johneshwy Fargas, and Michael Conforto are not expected to be back anytime soon. Villar could be used as a fourth or fifth outfielder if needed, which will help provide him with more at-bats and improve the Mets’ offense in the outfield.
Plus, shortstop Francisco Lindor has played all but one game this season. He will need to get some time off his feet as the dog days of the summer creep up on the season. Villar could see some time there as well.
In the end, it comes down to need. If the Mets need some offensive production, then Jonathan Villar will be in the lineup somehow and somehow.
Using him in the outfield over players like Kevin Pillar would give the Mets a more potent offense. He is certainly a better offensive player than Jose Peraza at second base.
As long as he continues to hit and as long as the Mets need his bat, Jonathan Villar will be a part of the lineup. He is athletic enough for his defense to hold up in those positions as well.
Even though the Mets are getting healthier, I expect to continue to see Jonathan Villar in the lineup regularly.
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