Hooks' Villar shows potential at plate

Astros prospect ties career high with four hits, steals a base

By Sam Dykstra / Special to MLB.com | May 21, 2012 8:44 PM ET

Jonathan Villar has made a name for himself with his feet and his arm. However, the 21-year-old shortstop has yet to make an impact with his bat, despite being in the Minor Leagues for the fifth season.

But Monday night, the switch-hitter showed that he may have the potential to break out in that category as well.

The Astros' No. 4 prospect went 4-for-5 with two RBIs and a run scored in Double-A Corpus Christi's 5-2 win over Midland. His four hits -- all singles -- tied a career high, first achieved on Aug. 1, 2010 with Class A Advanced Lancaster.

The Dominican native, who came to the Astros organization in the 2010 trade that sent Roy Oswalt to Philadelphia, reached base on each of his first four at-bats and hit a two-RBI single to center in the second inning. Those four hits raised his average 19 points, from .228 to .247, in just nine innings.

Villar, however, shrugged off Monday's contest, despite its juxtaposition with his struggles at the plate this season.

"It's just one of those things," Villar said through a translator. "I've got lots to keep working on. It's baseball. These games happen every once in a while, but I know there's more ahead."

Hooks hitting coach Joel Chimelis went into a little more in depth about the struggles of his shortstop, who hit .231 in 83 games at Corpus Christi last year.

"He has a lot of ability," Chimelis said. "But at this level, he has to work on controlling his body and being more consistent with that control. That happens with a lot of other young players here too. They try to do too much, and they go up there hacking at the ball too much.

"It's just a matter of keeping them under control, staying short to the ball. It's something we have to tell him over and over and over again."

But as Villar continues to work on his hitting ability, there is plenty else to like for the Astros organization.

He stole second base after reaching in his first at-bat in the first inning. The swipe gives Villar 18 steals on the season, good enough to tie Angels' top prospect Jean Segura atop the Texas League standings. He also boasts a plus arm at the shortstop position, and Chimelis is just one of many who believe he could be a potential star if he just puts all the tools together.

"He's unbelievable," Chimelis said. "He's so fast and aggressive on the basepaths. He also has surprising power for a guy his size, but at times, he again tries to do too much with that power. But his arm is great too. He just gets so much behind his throws. Still, he has some work to do before he can achieve his ultimate goal."

Astros' No. 7 prospect Brett Oberholtzer (2-2) allowed eight hits and struck out a season-high nine over six shutout innings in his eighth start for the Hooks this season.

"He was competing well," Villar said through a translator. "He keeps the team in the game every time and makes it easy to play behind. You could feel him give the team energy with the way he was pitching, and we were just hoping to get some runs to get him the win."

Jose Martinez went 2-for-4 with an RBI and was the only Hooks player beside Villar to collect more than one hit.

Sam Dykstra is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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