After the jump, we continue by taking a look at the #20 player in the LSB Community Prospect Rankings, third baseman Christian Villanueva...
Christian Villanueva is a 5'11", 160 lb. righthanded hitting third baseman who was signed by the Rangers as a free agent out of Mexico in the fall of 2008 as a 17 year old. Villanueva had a stint in the Dominican Summer League in 2009 cut short by knee surgery, putting up a .208/.375/.250 line in 33 plate appearances
Villanueva made his stateside debut in the Arizona Rookie League in 2010, and despite there being little in the way of expectations for him -- he was on, a cursory glance indicates, no one's top Rangers' prospect lists heading into the 2010 season -- he impressed in his first U.S. pro experience, putting up a .314/.365/.431 line for the Rangers' rookie league affiliate while playing quality defense at third base. Villanueva's play turned enough heads that he landed at #15 on the Baseball America Arizona League prospect list after the 2010 season, with BA praising his hitting and his glove, while also saying that he could potentially move to second base.
Villanueva's 2010 performance was enough to get him on the prospect map, and he appeared anywhere from the late teens to the early twenties on most Ranger lists heading into the 2011 season. While it would not have been surprising for Villanueva to go to short-season A Spokane for 2011, the Rangers opted to give him a greater challenge, sending him to low-A Hickory for the 2011 season.
Villanueva's 2011 flew under many people's radar, as he was overshadowed by his partner on the left side of the infield, shortstop Jurickson Profar, who won the league MVP Award, and he didn't make the BA Sally League top 20 list. Nevertheless, his .278/.338/.465 line is impressive, particularly for a player whose glove is considered his strong point, and who was 19 when the season began. Still, I think a lot of observers -- even Rangers prospectphiles -- were shocked when Villanueva showed up at #100 on Baseball America's top 100 prospect list, particularly given that he was behind non-top-100 players Neil Ramirez, Jorge Alfaro, and Cody Buckel on the team top 10 list.
Villanueva comes from a family of baseball players and, like Profar, gets good marks for his instincts and awareness. The scouting report on Villanueva is that he projects to have an average hit tool and average power and speed, which, combined with his plus glove work, means that he has the ceiling of a solid major league starting third baseman -- think Eric Chavez with less power.
Villanueva will likely start the 2012 season at high-A Myrtle Beach, and he likely will spend the entire season there, especially if Mike Olt spends a full year at AA Frisco. If Villanueva continues to progress, he could see the major leagues by some point in the 2014 or 2015 season, although with both Olt and Adrian Beltre ahead of him, his path to the majors with the Rangers isn't exactly wide open.