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Familiar Fish: Could Jonathan Villar join Pierre, Castillo, and Gordon?

Only three players in Marlins history have stolen 60 or more bases in a season, but Villar isn’t far removed from doing that himself.

MLB: Spring Training-Washington Nationals at Miami Marlins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The 2020 Marlins roster includes a lot of new faces, brought in to add depth, versatility and overall talent to a team that has been non-competitive in recent years. However, each of these players have similarities to former Marlins, making it easier to set expectations for their performance moving forward. The “Familiar Fish” article series will explore these comparisons in depth.


In Marlins history, there have been plenty of notable base-stealers. At their peaks, Chuck Carr, Quilvio Veras, Hanley Ramírez and José Reyes were among the best thieves in the major leagues. But only three individuals have swiped at least 60 in a season: Juan Pierre (65, in 2003), Luis Castillo (62, in 2000), and Dee Gordon (60, in 2017).

After Gordon’s departure, that role has been vacant for the Fish. But during this long offseason, they acquired Jonathan Villar from the Baltimore Orioles, a player with the track record, instincts and aggressiveness approach Pierre’s long-standing record.

Villar’s timing is unfortunate. The 2020 MLB season has been delayed several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic and if there actually is a campaign, it would be far shorter than the usual 162 games. Villar will become a free agent next winter regardless, so he won’t get a legitimate opportunity to attempt the feat unless the front office outbids other teams to re-sign him. Still, it’d be interesting to see what the Dominican can do in a Marlins uniform during a full year.

There’s more than one reason to believe that Villar is capable breaking JP’s mark or at least becoming the fourth Marlin to break the 60-steal barrier.

In 2019, as a member of the Orioles, he recorded 40 SB, the same number he has averaged over the last four seasons combined. Only outfielder Billy Hamilton has been more productive on the basepaths during that timeframe. Villar isn’t long removed from setting a personal best in 2016, when he swiped 62 on 80 attempts as a Brewer.

Through the years, Villar has received the “green light” to run because he’s proven he can do so efficiently. Beyond just the raw stolen base totals, he’s arguably the best baserunner in the big leagues. The BsR stat—which can be found on FanGraphs—had him in first place among all qualified hitters in 2019 at 10.5 runs above average. Just behind Jonathan were Mallex Smith (8.5), Christian Yelich (8.5), and Ronald Acuña Jr. (8.1). That’s also a higher BsR than any individual player season in Marlins history.

Combining his steals and overall baserunning ability with his leadership and sweet swing from both sides of the plate, Villar should be one of the most entertaining Marlins to watch this season. After all, despite not being considered a slugger, he hit 33 doubles, five triples, and 24 home runs in 2019.

Pierre’s record appears safe for at least one more year, but if Miami brings Villar back on a deal in 2021, he’ll get a fair shot at it.

Poll

Could Jonathan Villar break Juan Pierre’s 65 steals record during a 162-game regular season?

This poll is closed

  • 37%
    Yes, sure
    (3 votes)
  • 37%
    No, but he’d get very close
    (3 votes)
  • 25%
    No way
    (2 votes)
8 votes total Vote Now