Milwaukee Brewers: Jonathan Villar a New Version of Carlos Gomez

The Milwaukee Brewers have had a player similar to Jonathan Villar, which may clue them into his potential rise and fall.

Save for a few differences, Milwaukee Brewers‘ infielder Jonathan Villar and former Crew outfielder Carlos Gomez have a comparable look and feel to their games.

Both are exciting players who own blazing speed, infectious energy, solid bats, some style and flair, and a competitive streak that comes from their passion for the game.

Their fascinating power-speed combo makes them dangerous on numerous fronts.

The similarities in the two could even foreshadow Villar’s career arc, giving the Brewers an indication if – or when – they should trade him in the future.

While each of them have played up-the-middle positions, Gomez was a Gold Glove center fielder. Last year at shortstop, Villar would show flashes of brilliance with a fantastic play, then follow it up with an ugly one.

Villar and Gomez had their own versions of breakout years in their first full-time roles in Milwaukee. For Villar, it was the only time he was given the job and told to do his thing.

Gomez had a couple of chances with the Minnesota Twins, but the organization hurt his production by trying to change his style too much.

The Brewers simply let him – you know – go!

Villar’s inaugural season with the Brewers was even better than Gomez’s 2012 emergence. While Gomez had a respectable .768 OPS (101 OPS+), Villar put up an .826 OPS (118 OPS+) – and was a year younger than Go-Go.

The now second-baseman also led MLB with 62 stolen bases – 3rd-most in franchise history. Gomez collected 37 thefts in 2012, but at a higher rate of success than Villar.

And though each player finished with 19 home runs and a ton of strikeouts, it was Villar’s ability to reach base more consistently that is a great sign for the future.

Villar posted a .369 OBP last season. Meanwhile, Gomez has never reached that number, with his highest mark at .356 in 2014. Gomez never had the knack for taking a walk. His career-high is 47.

The 25-year-old Villar drew 79 walks last season to compensate for his 174 whiffs – the 9th-most in team history. Still, he hit .285 with a .457 slugging percentage, which was boosted by 38 doubles.

Milwaukee Brewers Carlos Gomez

Carlos Gomez had a terrific run with the Milwaukee Brewers, with a career year in 2013. Photo Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Overall, it was a tremendous “first season” for Villar when talking about his initial year as a full-time starter

Villar actually came within one home run of being only the 4th player in MLB history to finish a season with 60 steals and 20 home runs.

As for Gomez, year two represented his best season as a pro. That could mean even bigger things for Villar in 2017 if his path is similar.

In 2013, Gomez made his first All-Star team, won the first Gold Glove for the franchise since 1982, and even finished in the top-10 for the NL MVP.

He even finished with a 7.4 fWAR that season, the 2nd-best mark behind Robin Yount‘s 1982 MVP year (9.8 fWAR). This was the Carlos Gomez everyone expected as a highly-touted prospect in the New York Mets organization.

Gomez had career bests in slugging (.506), OPS (.843), home runs (24), triples (10), and stolen bases (40). He quickly became a fan favorite in Milwaukee and was the most exciting player to watch on the club.

Of course, the aggressive, over-exuberant, head-shaking style of play that drove Gomez’s success, also led to many mistakes that frustrated coaches and fans. This, too, is a trait of Villar’s: the childlike spirit that sometimes goes too far and hurts more than helps.

Both players often make poor decisions on the base paths where the line for aggressiveness bleeds quickly into foolishness. Whether it’s getting thrown out trying to steal third with two outs or running aimlessly into a tag because their head was down.

You take the good with the bad, but hope the percentage of “bad” stays in the minimal range.

In the field, each have their share of absentminded moments in fielding a ball or knowing where to throw (or cover). Sometimes, even if they do have it right in their heads, they unleash a throw that sails about 46 feet high or wide of the intended target.

Strong arms, for sure, but challenging for them to harness.

This look at their similar flaws isn’t to bash them or argue the mistakes aren’t worth the high value. Both are players, in their best years, that every team in the league would want.

Milwaukee Brewers Jonathan Villar

Jonathan Villar’s power-speed combo makes him one of the most dynamic Milwaukee Brewers. Photo Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

However, one has to wonder if Gomez’s high-octane play – which created his improved production – didn’t also quickly cause him to burn out when it came to his skills.

After three mostly terrific seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers (121 OPS+, 66 HR), his last two years have been disappointments.

Despite a brief resurgence in 33 games with the Texas Rangers, he has seen quite the dip.

His combined numbers from 2015-2016:  .243 average, .397 slugging, .703 OPS (91 OPS+), and just 25 home runs. Even his stolen bases went down to only 18 per year, certainly hurt by a .306 OBP.

The concern for the Milwaukee Brewers should be, will Villar experience this same type of quick peak and sudden dive?

Many players in the history of baseball have enjoyed these small windows of fantastic execution, flanked by years of mediocre – or worse – production.

It also makes sense that men who put forth maximum effort tend to be impacted sooner. Whether it’s due to minor injuries, the effects of age, or other mind/body disconnects, Gomez and Villar models are at a higher risk.

So does that mean GM David Stearns should be looking to deal Villar before this drop in performance happens? It’s a tough call when you have a player under team control for the next four years.

There was a report that the Brewers offered Villar a contract extension this past offseason (around $20 million), but he turned it down.

Clearly, Villar and his agent believe he will continue to progress and earn more through the arbitration process.

As the next couple of years roll by, Stearns and company will need to determine if Villar will still be rising or if he will quickly fall a la Carlos Gomez.

With second baseman Isan Diaz a couple of seasons away from reaching the big leagues, the Milwaukee Brewers have some time to make this type of decision.

Of course, the key to a Villar trade will come down to timing and the value of the return. The 2018 trade deadline and following offseason might be the time to strike a big deal.