- Full name Angel Miguel Villalona
- Born 08/13/1990 in La Romana, Dominican Republic
- Profile Ht.: 6'3" / Wt.: 255 / Bats: R / Throws: R
Organization Prospect Rankings
The list of Giants' No. 1 prospects from 2006-11 includes Matt Cain, Tm Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey and Brandon Belt. It also includes Villalona, who held more promise than anyone in the organization in 2008. Then came the murder charge in the Dominican Republic, nearly a year of house arrest, a lawsuit alleging the Giants with breach of contract and a two-year saga to reestablish his U.S. work visa. The Giants still aren't sure what to make of Villalona, who has some major deficiencies in his game as well as ongoing weight issues. But there's no denying his power is for real. Despite hitting just .229/.278/.433 at high Class A San Jose through June, the Giants swapped him with Double-A first baseman Ricky Oropesa in July. Villalona wasn't overmatched at Richmond and hit 22 homers combined, but his overall .276 on-base percentage was an issue. Villalona has smooth actions at first base, even if he isn't a good athlete. The Giants still hope he can put the rest of his game together, allowing his power to play in the big leagues.
The news couldn't have been more shocking. On the night San Jose clinched the Cal League title Sept. 19, their Opening Day first baseman was accused of fatally shooting a bar patron in the Dominican Republic. Villalona, a quiet but affable teenage power hitter, had taken leave from the team after straining his quadriceps in July. He was rehabbing the injury in Arizona when the Giants let him go home to visit his mother in the rough coastal town of La Romana. Instead of returning to the United States for instructional league, Villalona surrendered to authorities and was jailed awaiting trial on murder charges. If guilty, he could face a 20-year sentence. Details were sketchy and club officials weren't sure what to think, and during the offseason it appeared that Villalona might have the charges dismissed and make a restitution payment to the victim's family. If Villalona can resume his career, his elite power potential would make him one of the top five prospects in the system. But even if he's exonerated, the U.S. Embassy in the Dominican Republic has revoked his visa, so there's no guarantee he'll ever be able to get back into the country. Villalona's ability to crush balls earned him a $2.1 million bonus in 2006, a franchise record at the time. San Francisco has pushed him aggressively, as he was the youngest player in the South Atlantic League in 2008 and the youngest regular in the California League last season. Older pitchers have been able to exploit his lack of strike-zone awareness and patience. Villalona is a below-average athlete and a poor runner who hasn't exhibited the best conditioning habits. Though he has arm strength and surprising agility for a player with his build, he moved from third base after his first pro season and needs to work on his defense at first base.
The best Giants power-hitting prospect to come along in more than a decade, Villalona signed for a then-club-record $2.1 million in 2007. He had an encouraging first full pro season in 2008, when he was the youngest player in the South Atlantic League. He led a championship Augusta team with 17 homers as a 17-year-old while moving from third base to first base. Villalona's batting practice was a daily fireworks display and he often carried it over to games. He has the ability to hit quality fastballs and hanging breaking balls a long, long way. He has soft hands, a strong, accurate arm and surprising agility for a player his size. He lost almost 40 pounds from spring training to the end of the season and coaches praised his dedication to getting in baseball shape. Villalona lacks patience at the plate, rarely drawing walks and failing to realize when pitchers are trying to pitch around him. It's vital that he continue to take his conditioning seriously. Even after slimming down, he's still a poor runner with no chance of returning to third base. If the Giants promote Villalona a level per year, he'll still reach the majors at age 21, and he might not need that long. His production improved every month at Augusta, and they hope for a similar upswing this season at high Class A San Jose.
Giants special assistant Felipe Alou spent nearly two decades in player development with the Expos and considers Andres Galarraga the best young power hitter he ever came across. When Alou watched Villalona take batting practice for the first time, he had visions of the Big Cat dancing in his head. With a barrel chest and a strapping body, Villalona looks like a premier power-hitting prospect and he takes batting practice to match. He doesn't look like he's 17, which is what the Giants must keep reminding themselves as they develop their $2.1 million bonus baby out of the Dominican Republic. "If he's a 17-year-old high school player right now, I don't know how much money he'd get," retiring farm director Jack Hiatt said. "He's got unbelievable power." Though his major league debut is years away, San Francisco fans already consider Villalona the shining savior in a system that hasn't produced an impact position player since Will Clark and Matt Williams in the mid-1980s. Villalona made his pro debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League, where he was both the youngest player and the No. 1 prospect, and earned a late callup to short-season Salem-Keizer. The Giants wanted Villalona to concentrate on developing good habits as he acclimated to life in the United States, including basics like taking productive batting practice and learning to compete. They noticed major improvements from his first instructional league in 2006 to the next, especially with his hitting approach. He's able to hang in tougher on breaking balls, has shown the ability to hit to the opposite field with runners on base and no longer swings out of his shoes at every pitch. San Francisco is so enamored with his powerful bat that it isn't concerned yet about where it will play. Villalona is athletic for his size, and he has good hands and a well above-average arm at third base. He's shy but easily likable and coaches say he is eager to learn. Villalona is still growing and his weight bears watching. He is an average runner now but will rate below average as he gets older. The Giants already acknowledge that he'll probably be a first baseman down the road, perhaps as soon as 2008. Special assistant J.T. Snow, a former Gold Glove first baseman, worked with Villalona during instructional league and he picked up first base quickly. He tends to throw from a low arm angle, leading to errors. Villalona didn't react well at first when he wasn't assigned to Salem to start the summer and he remains unschooled when it comes to the subtle nuances of the game such as bunt plays and cutoffs, but all that's to be expected of someone who could be a high school junior. In 2008, Villalona will log his first full pro season and almost certainly will be the youngest regular in the low Class A South Atlantic League. He's talented enough to reach the majors before his 20th birthday--which won't come until August 2010--but the Giants insist they have no timetable. "When he's ready and can do the right things consistently in front of crowds, he'll get there and stay there a long time," Hiatt said.
San Francisco doesn't often compete for top Latin American talent, but its didn't flinch at offering Villalona a club-record $2.1 million bonus. International scouting director Rick Ragazzo first noticed Villalona taking batting practice as a 13-year-old and maintained a close relationship with the family. Villalona developed such a comfort level with the Giants that he reportedly turned down larger offers from other clubs. Agent Scott Boras accused the Giants of circumventing him, but they insist they acted in good faith and Major League Baseball approved the contract. Though Villalona would be a high school sophomore in the United States, he already looks like a man. He combines size and power with athleticism. The ball makes a special sound off his bat and he has 40-plus home run potential. He doesn't need to make square contact to hit the ball a long way. He has good hands and instincts, and his plus arm allows him to make plays on balls hit down the line. Villalona has yet to face pro pitching, and the Giants must resist the temptation to move him too quickly. They're trying to be patient, bringing him to instructional league to introduce him to coaches and to American baseball culture. He'll be a below-average runner once he fills out. Villalona projects as an elite power-hitting prospect, but his arrival is probably at least four years away. It's possible Villalona could start his pro career with low Class Augusta as a 16-year-old, but he'll probably start the season in extended spring training before heading to the Rookie-level Arizona League.
Minor League Top Prospects
No player received more mixed reports from managers and scouts than Villalona. Signed for $2.1 million out of the Dominican Republic, Villalona made a seamless defensive move from third base to first base and showed tremendous raw hitting ability. But several observers questioned Villalona's conditioning and weight, which was listed at 240 pounds. As the season progressed, it was obvious that the assistance provided by Augusta trainer Eric Ortega was producing results. His power this year was only the tip of the iceberg, and his hitting will improve once he gets a better grasp of the strike zone. He was the league's youngest player and also the youngest at the Futures Game. "He looked a lot better during the second half of the season than he did early," Quatraro said. "He's lost a lot of weight, and it's going to take time to see if he is going to adjust to hitting the breaking ball."
Villalona thought he would open the season as the Northwest League's youngest player ever, and he wasn't happy to find himself in the AZL. The youngest player in the league, he began the summer by trying to prove the Giants wrong, muscling up too often and expanding his strike zone in an effort to hit home runs. He acted like many 16-year-olds do when things didn't go their way, taking poor at-bats into the field with him, but he also made adjustments as the year went along, showing signs of maturity and professionalism. He also showed all the tools that prompted the Giants to make him a millionaire: premium bat speed and strength, power to all fields, a feel for hitting and a plus throwing arm that's well-suited for third base. Villalona will have to watch his body to make sure the Miguel Cabrera comparisons he engenders are made for the right reasons. "When he stays on his backside and uses the middle of the field, he hits it harder than anyone I've ever seen at this level," Hunter said. "Even when he's on his front foot, he can hit it out, hit with power. He's got big forearms, big legs, big shoulders, uses his lower half. The ball comes off his bat like it does for older players. It's like he's already a Triple-A hitter."
Top 100 Rankings
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Power Hitter in the San Francisco Giants in 2014
- Rated Best Power Hitter in the San Francisco Giants in 2009
- Rated Best Power Hitter in the San Francisco Giants in 2008
- Rated Best Power Hitter in the San Francisco Giants in 2007