Preseason Unknowns: Villanueva, Canha, and Seven Scrubs

I’m going over hitters who are getting regular at-bats who I didn’t consider┬árosterable in the preseason. It’s now time to see if I missed anything.

Christian Villanueva

Everyone missed on Villanueva to start the season. He got no prospect love anywhere and the only preseason profile I found called him a “utilityman”. I don’t like to miss this badly on a player and set up a filter to find these gems. I’m not sure I can.

To start with, he had a decent Triple-A season hitting .296/.369/.528 and continued the results in the majors.

His small batted ball data sample didn’t suggest a breakout with the following rankings (min 10 batted balls). After getting burnt by Aaron Judge and extreme power hitters, I like to start finding breakouts on the StatCast leaderboard.

Stat: Rank (value)
Max exit velocity (EV): #477 (105.3 mph, Seth Lugo was higher)
Average EV: #368 (85.6 mph, Nori Aoki was higher)
Average LD/FB EV: #220 (92.9 mph)
Max flyball distance: #285 (426 ft)
Barrells: #107 (6.3 Barrels/PA above Kris Bryant, Joey Votto, and Charlie Blackmon)

Maybe I need to consider B/PA more but it was just 20 batted balls for Villanueva. Here are some hitters and their PA who have fewer than 50 batted balls.

Name: BA/PA
Dusty Coleman: 8.5%
Raffy Lopez: 7.9%
Franchy Cordero: 7.1%
Christian Villanueva: 6.3%
Efren Navarro: 5.8%

I’m wondering if I should be considering all of them for breakouts. I’m not. I don’t think there is a reliable formula for finding similar breakouts to Villanueva. Quickly finding players like him are key but I may just have to accept missing on him.

He’s continued hitting the ball hard this season with an 11.7% BA/PA (15th best rate) and a max EV up 5 mph already. I probably should have been looking earlier for him but his three home run game made everyone take notice.

It’s not all rainbows and unicorns for Villanueva. He’ got a 32% K% and a .440 BABIP which will drop as the season progresses. Pitchers gave him no respect to start the season by throwing him pitches in the strike zone (Zone%) 47% of the time and 68% fastballs. Over the last eight games, the Zone% has dropped to 43% and he now sees only 63% fastballs.

I’m really having a problem putting a future value on him. Projections all have him rest-of-season near a .240 AVG and 20 HR. A ton of regression seems to be baked into it. I’m taking the over and interested in how his next month goes.

Mark Canha

Canha was a hot buy coming into the 2016 season after just hitting 16 home runs the season before. Early in the season, he sprained his back and missed the rest of the season. Last season, he shuttled back-and-forth between Triple-A and the majors. Now he’s back in the majors as the A’s centerfielder hitting .333/.407/.625.

I’m sort of intrigued that I plan on taking a chance on him with the hope his back is finally healed. Previously when he was in the majors he rarely walked but this season he has an 11% BB%. Waiting for better pitches can help his overall game. Right now, he’s posting a .333 BABIP with his career major league value at .237 so some regression is coming.

Kyle Farmer

Part-time Dodgers third baseman who is only relevant in NL-only leagues. If he gets a fulltime roles, he has decent on-base skills.

Miguel Rojas

The Marlins fulltime shortstop is breaking out in his age-29 season with a career-high two home runs. He looks completely irrelevant except in the deepest of leagues where every warm body is rostered.

Johnny Field

Field has been playing in the outfield corners with the recent injuries in Tampa. In a full season, he has 15/15 potential with a .250 AVG. Another body for a deep league.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa

He’s moved into Texas’s middle infield with all their injuries. He as the possibility of 15 steals with an empty batting line.

Alex Blandino

The 25-year-old previous first-round pick’s heavy flyball approach has led to one single in 31 PA between Triple-A and the majors. Going off this 2017 season, he looks like he may have 20 home run power but he’s not shown it this season. Projects for a Joey Gallo batting average with Freddy Galvis power.

Niko Goodrum

Goodrum had three steals in his first five games. Since then, he’s hit himself on base once. He needs to get on base to use his speed and a .179/.258/.321 slash line won’t cut it.

Deven Marrero

The Diamondbacks infield backup is not fantasy relevant.

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Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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Was watching Villanueva on a recent game and he seems to have considerable pull power. I targeted him in my draft due to his success in September last year. Nice surprise to see him getting regular playing time already since presumably 3B was blocked by Headley.


Villaneuva crushed homeruns. Just with the eyes, that power is special…but again just eyes. And beyond the eye, the bat makes a thundering sound on almost every hit.

I am sure if we found articles on him, he rebuilt his swing probably the year he hurt himself in the minors. Something around their turned him into what he is, or maybe we all just missed him.

I THOUGHT I read an article a month ago about his changes, but I cannot seem to find it. I could just be confusing players…..but it looks real.