The New York Mets came into the 2021 season with an infield of Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, Francisco Lindor, and J.D. Davis. Through 45 games, the only healthy infielder left is Lindor, who is hitting .191 with four home runs and 11 RBI. The Mets have been drastically affected by injuries. One player though that has stepped up off the bench has been Jonathan Villar.
The veteran infielder signed with the Mets for $3.5 million after spending the past three seasons with three different teams. Villar is now the leadoff man for the Mets and the starting third basemen. Let’s take a look at his season thus far and the role that he has been forced into.
Villar came into Thursday’s doubleheader against the Colorado Rockies with a low batting average but made his two hits count as he went 2-5 and walked twice in the sweep of Colorado. The Mets only scored five runs across the two games, but Villar scored one of the runs and got on base to lead off the game in both of his at-bats.
Then, Villar just missed hitting a grand slam Saturday versus the Atlanta Braves but ended up blasting a solo shot in his next plate appearance in New York’s 13-2 win. The Mets have a lineup that consists of only three regulars in Lindor, James McCann, and Dominic Smith. Since coming into the lineup, Villar has been the catalyst in the lead-off spot. He now has five home runs, which leads the active roster. Villar has also driven in 13 runs.
Behind him, the Mets lineup consists of minor league-caliber players such as Cameron Maybin, Billy McKinney, and Jose Peraza. Maybin came to the Mets after hitting .103 in AAA with the Iowa Cubs. He has one hit through his first 28 at-bats. For McKinney, he was barely hitting over .200 with the Milwaukee Brewers before he was designated for assignment.
The Mets outfield depth is so depleted with injuries to Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Kevin Pillar, Albert Almora, and Johneshwy Fargas that Smith, who came through the system as a first baseman, is being forced to continue to play left field while McCann just recently played the first game of his career game at first base.
The Mets bench of Wilfredo Tovar, Khalil Lee, and Patrick Mazeika have a combined 146 at-bats in the major leagues. The only veteran they have on the bench is, Brandon Drury, who is a lifetime .248 hitter.
Role With Mets
As a switch hitter, Villar has been far more productive as a left-handed hitter. However, four of his five home runs have come as a right-handed hitter. Villar has walked 15 times, all while batting lefty, and has an on-base percentage of .359 from the left side.
Villar’s first signature moment was on a walk-off hit in April and he used his speed to score a game-winning run on a Mazeika’s fielder choice earlier this month. Villar has the ability to also play shortstop and second base. At some point, the Mets are going to get healthier. Still, his versatility should keep him in the lineup with Davis having a setback, and also McNeil is not expected back anytime soon.
The Mets will continue to count on Villar for the time being. He has been arguably one of the Mets’ most productive signings in the offseason. He has yet to play in the outfield with the Mets, but manager Luis Rojas has mentioned he is comfortable putting him out there.
The Mets are currently in first place in the National League East with a record of 25-20. They will have one more game at Citi field with Jacob deGrom on the mound. The Mets will then head out west to face the Arizona Diamondbacks and the San Diego Padres.
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Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, Francisco Lindor, J.D. Davis, Jonathan Villar, James McCann, Dominic Smith, Cameron Maybin, Billy McKinney, Jose Peraza, Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Kevin Pillar, Albert Almora, Johneshwy Fargas Wilfredo Tovar, Khalil Lee, Patrick Mazeika Brandon Drury, and Jacob deGrom