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A Call To Action: Get Christian Villanueva to the 2018 Home Run Derby

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I’d like to see a Padre mash baseballs for fun this summer. Wouldn’t you?

MLB: Atlanta Braves at San Diego Padres Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

It was way back in 2016 when the San Diego Padres last had a player in the Home Run Derby. Of course you remember who since the game was in our very own Petco Park. The buzz of baseball’s best players and heaviest hitters mashing baseballs into the giant scoreboard and into the stands (while wearing some really really spiffy duds, natch) filled the stadium and energized the city in a way not felt since the last World Series. While our own Wil Myers gave it a valiant effort as team representative, he did not escape the first round.

Since then we’ve seen the ASG in cavernous Miami (where A-A-Ron Judge took down Miguel Sano in the final round of the HR Derby) and only had a pitcher participate in the game proper (that was Brad Hand). With the upcoming festivities in the nation’s capital, wouldn’t it be sweet to have something else to look forward to than another ASG appearance from Mr. Hand? Not that I’m complaining about Brad earning another All-Star distinction...but there’s something just a little more fun about seeing one of your own players mash dongers in a dinger-mashing contest. And I think I know just the guy.

I think we should get Padres 3rd baseman Christian Villanueva to the Home Run Derby.

Whoa, I already know what you’re saying. Why not Franchy? Franimal? Renfroe? Normally I’d agree with you, but there’s issues with all three of these fine baseball-mashers: Franchy has gone to a more contact-friendly approach after an April full of bombs, Franmil has only been up for a limited time, and Renfroe was both injured and in need of a hitting adjustment. Christian Villanueva represents the best candidate stat-wise for getting a Padre in the Derby. Here’s the proof:

Leads Rookies in HRs

MLB: San Diego Padres at Los Angeles Dodgers Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Yep, Villa leads all MLB rookies with 15 home runs so far this season. Pretty sure one of the prerequisites for participation in the Home Run Derby is that you need to hit home runs, correct? Our own native from Guadalajara has this covered. If you were to rank him among MLB regulars he’d tie for 10th alongside a different spelled Chris: Khris Davis. Only Jose Ramirez of the Indians has more home runs among 3rd baseman (19) and he’s had 70 more plate appearances (no, Manny Machado is a shortstop this year).

Leads Rookies in RBIs

MLB: Miami Marlins at San Diego Padres Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

While we’re talking about a home run contest, everything else will sort of read like resume filler since we’ve already covered the main aspect. Though not being named an All-Star doesn’t necessarily preclude one from hitting in the Home Run Derby, there are other reasons why Villanueva should earn consideration. He does lead all rookies in RBIs with 35, which says a lot considering the challenges of getting a Padre on base in order to collect the stat; San Diego ranks 28th overall with a .299 team OBP. Among regular 3rd baseman Villa would rank just below old friend Yangervis Solarte in the 8th spot.

Advanced Stats

MLB: Miami Marlins at San Diego Padres Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

We’ll just touch on where Christian ranks in advanced stats:

  • 8th among rookies in wRC+ at 126. Only Miguel Andujar of the Yankees has played in nearly as many games as Villanueva. Christian ties for 9th with Travis Shaw among regular 3rd baseman. An average wRC+ is around 100, so Villa is performing above average in this regard.
  • 4th among rookies in WAR at 1.0. Villa’s cumulative WAR more than likely suffers thanks to his negative Defensive Runs Above Average (via Fangraphs) rating at -1.8. The eye test also shows that Villa’s defense is...an adventure at times. Even still, his power has helped enough to maintain this rank despite Villa carrying one of the lower batting averages among rookies (.234).
  • 2nd among rookies in ISO (.296), which measures a hitter’s ability to hit for extra bases. Only rookie Austin Meadows of the Pirates has a higher ISO but he hasn’t reached 100 plate appearances yet. Christian’s ISO ranks 6th in all of MLB above such names like reigning HR champ Aaron Judge, Bryce Harper, and Joey Gallo, all of whom are known for...their home runs.

It may seem like the longest of shots to get one of our own recognized on the national baseball stage. As Padres fans this always seems like the case each year when the Friars get the compensatory single player into the All Star Game. So why not take up the campaign on our own and spread the word on getting Christian Villanueva into the Home Run Derby? How much fun would it be to see one of our own on TV doing what he’s been doing best so far this season? Do you really have anything better to do?

You’ll find me taking up the cause on Twitter. Will you join me?