Wednesday, October 05, 2011

VIllanova's Baaack!

Angel Villanova is back with the Giants.  Read this article on it, on Yahoo.

One minor quibble, only quibble since it was never verified, but the Giants reportedly only outbid the Yankees, Mets, and Red Sox.  One rumor was that the Mariners actually outbid the Giants by a lot, I believe the figure was $3.0M vs. the Giants $2.1M, which is probably why Villalona's agent, Scott Boras (yes, that agent) promptly announce that he was going to sue the Giants for not including him in the negotiations, whereupon the Giants stated that Villalona had the proper representatives for the Giants to execute a legally signed contract, so if Boras has a problem with how it went down, he should speak to Villalona.  Since I heard nothing about it afterward, Boras probably licked his wounds with a big chunk of the $2.1M. (at, say, 10%, that's $210K vs. $300K, at 15%, $315K vs. $450K, the difference of which is probably pocket change in the big scheme of things for Boras).

Reportedly, the Giants scouts had been in on Villalona since he was 13 YO (he could officially sign once he turned 16) and had built up a relationship with him and his family over the intervening years.  Much like how that Atlanta Braves scout did with Jason Heyward as serendipity placed Heyward on the scout's son's Little League team, where he developed a strong relationship with the Heyward family (there was probably no way he would have signed with any other team that draft year; he probably viewed it as fate deciding, because his parents are college professors and he would have been just as happy to go to college if the Braves did not pick him).  Supposedly, Villalona went with the Giants because he was more comfortable with the team because of that long relationship built up.

Giants Thoughts

Not surprising that once the Giants reinstated Villanova, he dropped his $5M lawsuit (which is probably the main reason why the Giants reinstated him).  Not surprising that they waited to reinstate him once he was cleared of the homicide charges, because they didn't want this to put a dark cloud on the World Championship afterglow.  Not surprising that he sued them because they were probably ignoring all his entreaties to rejoin the organization.  The $5M was more to get the Giants attention, I think, than any real intent to collect on the damages.

The article mentioned comparisons to A-Rod, Adrian Beltre, and Wily Mo Pena, but I've never see ones like that.  Angel, physically, would never resemble the first two, and I don't know where they got Beltre, who is mostly all glove with some power, whereas Villanova is mostly all power with some glove.  Most probably the author chose them because they are Latin players who have a lot of HR power and play good defense at 3B.  There were reports that he has lost some of his baby fat and is slimmer now, but I think, like Sandoval, he's always going to be a big boi.  Whether he can play 3B, like the first two, is also in question.

The comparison I recall, which was when he was signed, was to Andres Gallaraga.  Villanova is suppose to have 40 home run power.  His being among the leaders in HR in his one year at Augusta helped validate that, as he was much, much younger than the pitchers there, and yet was able to hit for power (though not much else, so his OPS was not that high, though very good, I believe, for his age).

He was suppose to be good defensively at 3B but the Giants had him play 1B to take some defensive pressure off him and let him focus on developing his bat, as well as adjust to a foreign culture.  He reportedly still practiced a lot at 3B and had hopes of returning back to 3B at some point as he rose up higher.  I think reports of his defense at 1B was positive, though not great.

I think the Wily Mo Pena comparison is probably more apt because Pena is one of the big busts of big money Latin American Bonus Babies.  I believe his bonus was among the biggest up to his signing, if not the biggest, and thus his progress has been followed closely.  He will be 30 next season and will have still not put in a full season yet.

His highest PA in a season was in 2004 with 364 PA when he was only 22.  He got around 300 PA in his early to mid-20's, but once he turned 26, he could not do enough to keep teams interested enough to see if he would finally meet his projected potential, which is not unlike Angel, a 40 homer potential.  He showed it in 2004 with 26 homers, but that is his career high water mark, though perhaps he still has a chance, as he has been stuck in the minors for the prior two seasons before getting some playing time in 2011 with Arizona and Seattle.  He had 5 homers in 46 AB for Arizona.

Unfortunately for him, he has the classic "swing for it all" swing which results in a lot of HR power, but unfortunately even greater strikeout power and numbers, and thus his batting line is almost all SLG, as there are few hits or walks.  He's a career .250 hitter with .303 OBP.

And that is what Villanova profiles as so far:  big power, big whiffs.  To be fair, though, he's been the youngest regular at each league he's been in, so a lot of whiffs are to be expected, the pitchers are that much more older, that much more experienced, than he was.  Still, so was Sandoval and he was still able to avoid the strikeouts pretty well, even though he was young.  The encouraging thing is that despite that disadvantage, Villanova, while striking out a lot, was not excessively so, which gave hope that as he rises and catches up in age and experience with the competition, he would continue to do so.

However, after missing two years of organized baseball, there is no way to tell how well he might do.  He should definitely be very rusty, if not having regressed, slimmer body or not.  He did OK in San Jose in 2009, but not as well as he did in Augusta, so they could restart his career in Augusta to account for that lost time, and let him work upward from there.  On the other hand, I would think that some consideration would be given towards him starting in San Jose because there is a large Spanish speaking population here in the South San Francisco Bay Area, plus to see where he is competitively.  Along that line, they might just put him in instructional league to now and just continue that into the start of 2012 to bring him back up to speed, and once he looks ready, then place him on one of the affiliates.

Obviously, mixed reactions on his return.  Whoever may have done it, a life was lost because his group and another group were fighting over a chair in a dingy dive bar.  While it is suspicious to Western eyes that he paid off the family, we don't know how life is in that part of the Dominican Republic, nor of how the court system works there.  It could be like the U.S. where people sue when rich people are involved, only magnified exponentially because even the piddly $10K or so that he would have made in the minors this season, had he been re-instated earlier, is a lot of money for the average citizen of that town, most probably.  His $2.1M bonus basically makes him the Warren Buffett of his town, essentially.

Moving on, focusing strictly on the baseball implications, this is great for the Giants farm system.  The Giants have graduated a lot of people over the past few years, top players like Lincecum, Bumgarner, Sandoval, Posey, Belt, and still had some top prospects this season in Wheeler and Brown, plus now Panik most probably as well, plus perhaps Surkamp, though his major league debut was not that good.   Adding Villalona will be like finding lost money, which basically he was for two seasons, though I would note here that one of the major questions marks when this thing hit was that his visa was revoked at that time, and I've seen nothing about it being re-instated.  Since he says that he plans to return to baseball, I assume getting his visa back is a mere formality at this point.

Villanova was a Top 50 prospect for all of baseball at one point.  While he lost development time while away, honestly, the way he looked previously, he looked like he was eating his way out of baseball anyway.  If he has slimmed down in any significant way, that will help him regain his baseball status quicker.  And he is still only 21 YO for next season.

He most probably will never regain Top 40 status.  If he returned to San Jose, he would still be young for the league, still 2 years younger than the pitchers there (average in 2011 was 23.2 YO), but there are a lot of 20 and 21 YO players in the league and they are typically the top prospects for their teams.  It is incredibly unlikely that he can keep up with that level of production to keep his status.  For example, the top 21 YO was Jose Altuve (who became the Astro's starting 2B after they traded Jeff Keppinger to us) who hit .408/451/.606/1.057 there.  Michael Choice was next, hitting .285/.376/.542/.918, Henry Rodriguez 3rd, hitting .340/.378/.513/.891.  Villanova hit .267/.306/.397/.704 for San Jose in 2009 at age 18 (to think, he could have been close to the majors right now without all this, assuming he at least made AA by now and did well).  He would have to hit pretty well there in 2012 to earn high prospect status for the Giants, let alone all of baseball again.

Still, to show his potential, he was still 83rd in OPS in 2009 in the California League, even though he was 5 years younger and less experienced than the pitchers there.  His SLG ranked 69th and he was tied for 42nd in homers, despite being injured mid-season and missing a lot of the season.  If he got the 530+ PA that our top position players got in 2009 for San Jose, he would have prorated hit at least 15 homers, which would have ranked tied for 14th in the league for homers.  21 YO with that much HR power that season were Thomas Neal and Trayvon Robinson, though they also hit for a heck of a lot better batting average.  Both were in AAA this season, and Trayvon got some time in the majors with Seattle.  Coincidentally, both Neal and Robinson were traded this season.  And he did that at age 18, whereas now he is now 21, more physically developed, hopefully better fit and slimmer as well.

If he can regain status next season, he could still make the majors before he turns 25, which would still be pretty good.  By that point, Sandoval could have moved to 1B by then, or even LF, if the Giants want to keep Belt at 1B, heck, he could even be gone, as he is slated to be a free agent after the 2014 season (Villalona will be 24 for the 2015 season).  So 3B could be open at that point, should Angel still be able to play that position at that point, and perhaps 1B is open too.  Given his difficulties with weight up to now, I don't see how 1B is not his eventual position at some point, so 3B would be the whip cream on top of the sundae.

I see him being a Mark Reynolds type, lots of strikeouts (though hopefully not as bad as Reynolds), enough walks to make his poor batting average into an OK OBP, but the main attraction will be his huge HR potential, 30-40 each year, with a lot of runs batted in too.  Key questions will be whether he can walk enough to make his poor batting average into an OK enough OBP, whether he can not strikeout so much, so that his batting average isn't so poor, and whether he can hit enough homers that the first two questions are not that big an issue.


  1. Interesting development. The Giants farm system is a far cry from what it was when Angel V last played for them. Much more depth in position players though thinner in pitching. Hard to say where he fits into the picture now.

    Hopefully he is wiser as well as older, that he better realizes what he has and how close he came to losing it all forever.

    A fascinating story line for next year's Down on the Farm summaries.

  2. Hey OGC,

    Always appreciate your blog. I too have mixed feelings about Angel's return. But I am definitely intrigued with whether he can regain his power and develop into a solid big-league hitter these next few years.

    One player that comes to mind who had a long lay-off from baseball and ultimately fulfilled his potential upon return is Josh Hamilton. Now, I realize Hamilton had much more potential, is a five tool player, and was the top prospect before succumbing to his personal issues, but I see his story as giving hope that with hard work Angel can find success as well. Hopefully this can turn out to be a good story for the kid.

  3. Look forward to seeing your 2012 reports DrB! Thanks for the comment.

    JA, thank you for the compliment. Good point about Hamilton. I agree, not exactly the same, but I would note (and I think would agree) that Villalona was an extra special prospect in his own right (just not as good as Hamilton), he made Top Prospect status even though he was only 17-18 and very far away from the majors, his potential for power was that good. And, I would also note, his potential for batting average and defense was good as well, which is probably why he was ranked so high at so young an age.

    The good news, assuming the reports are true, is that Villalona did not spend him time off slouthlike and eating, which some would have done in light of long, bad times, instead the report (and I don't really recall who noted it, so it could be unreliable) said that he had slimmed down. So we will see.

    Yes, hopefully it can turn out to be a good story for the kid.

  4. I love going back and looking at the baseball america top tens. Here is 2008... seems like ages ago:

    1. Angel Villalona, 3b
    2. Tim Alderson, rhp
    3. Madison Bumgarner, lhp
    4. Nate Schierholtz, of
    5. Henry Sosa, rhp
    6. Nick Noonan, 2b/ss
    7. Eugenio Velez, of/2b
    8. Wendell Fairley, of
    9. John Bowker, of
    10. Emmanuel Burriss, ss

    I hold off from judgement on Dominican legal trouble - who knows how it goes for high profile baseball guys there. Juan Uribe had his problems as well, the list goes on.

    I'd say its a long shot having been gone so long. But the bonus money is most likely all spent, so maybe he comes in hungry.

    Also, Velez in our top ten? 4 years later, the farm is growing.

  5. Thanks for the comment Shankbone. Yeah, I like perusing the old BA Top 10's too. Yeah, Velez #7, our system was pretty bad still, at that point, though if Lincecum had not risen so fast, his name would have been atop that probably. Also, funny how things go, Alderson was above Bumgarner at that point.

    Maybe I should do a post covering past Top 10's, though my records don't go back too far, maybe they have them free on-line. Could be interesting to see how the farm system has advanced over time.

    Got to give credit to Barr for finding these guys after the first round, heck, Brown and Panik were great choices too, way back in the first round.

    Hopefully he finds a better prospect having a higher pick this season, around 20 (I think we have 19th best record but at least one other team failed to sign their first round pick, so we probably fell back at least one pick). That would really seal it for me that Barr is invaluable for us. Easy to pick up Posey, but Brown and Panik have been picks derided yet turning our really well for us.

  6. It was not really a trade, but giving Dodgers Colletti while getting Barr was a great "trade", we really ripped them off so far.

    And I still think Colletti is the person responsible for the AJ trade, I wish one of the reporters would confirm that, was hopeful after Baggerly confirmed that Rowand and Zito were NOT driven by Sabean.

  7. Agent Ned is indeed awesome. The one argument for AJ responsibility is his latest trade giving up that promising OF for yet another catcher. And his obsession with ex-Giants has become comical, almost as big a punchline as Sabean with the vets.

    BA has em up for a few years on their site. I really like the Brown/Panik and the depth in the drafts. Its unusual to produce more than 1 or 2 major leaguers, they have been pushing towards that after a few years in the wilderness. I really want them to keep the pick unless they end up with Rollins/Reyes. Giving the pick up for Willingham or Cuddyer just seems weak to me.

  8. I'm surprised SF is able to sign anyone out of the DR considering the damage 'hands-on' scout Luis Rosa caused.

  9. Good point anon! I think I mentioned this long ago when he signed. Basically the Giants didn't have anything going in the DR after that scandal with Rosa (I would note that I recall that we unfortunately stole him from the D-gers), they had somebody who rebuilt their reputation in the region, and I believe he was the one who recruited and made Villalona feel safe enough to turn down (reportedly) a bigger contract to sign with the Giants, who was #2 in any case. Can't remember his name, but he talked about DR and Japan around that time, but left the Giants maybe a year or two ago, just missing a ring, probably, by moving on. THough he could have been pushed out, we never did anything in Japan even though he was suppose to be working hard on establishing the Giants there.

    Ironic that the SF Giants, so beloved in Japan that the Giants are the only team name from the US to be used here, has not been very active in Japan. LAD has been much more active there, and in AP region, and Kuroda sure has been a nice addition to their staff the past few years.

  10. Shankbone, ironic that they are seeking another young catcher, as they gave up a pretty good one to Cleveland in Santana in order to get Blake, who they just released.

  11. They somehow scammed AJ Ellis onto the US squad this winter as the backup catcher. Tim Federowicz is the guy they just got. Keep raking Santana!

  12. Thanks OGC for the Villalona recap. I very much wanted to get caught up on his situation since news of the lawsuit. I guess we'll never really know what happened that night. I'm going to just hope that Villalona is a good kid who kind of got targeted that night because he was so high profile in the DR.

  13. You're welcome Kelly. I try to get caught up for those who can't. :^)

    Yeah, never know. From what I've read, that is just a really poor and bad part of the DR. It would not surprise me if someone from the other "gang" shot their own guy and blamed it on Angel.

    It also would not surprise me if Angel did it. From what I understand, people can exhibit very different personalities depending on the group they are with at the moment. That is why sometimes teens who are nice and obedient at home, are found to do other things when with their buddies elsewhere. So the angel that Angel is described as by his host families and others who knew him when he was playing in San Jose, could be very different when he's with his homies in the DR.

    Well, at least he did something to show he really wants to continue playing baseball by suing the Giants. He probably had enough money still to retire in the DR and never work again, if he wanted. Or invest the money and be the big man in his part of town.

    Instead, he fought for his chance to play in professional baseball and maybe make the majors some day. He should still have the skills that made BA list him in the top 40 prospects in all of baseball. It will take time to get off all the rust, but if he's been working out and playing local DR ball, he's at least been doing something and not just sitting around. Hopefully he's gotten his baby fat off and is slimmer and more in baseball shape now. That would be great to get a report on what Angel had been doing while waiting for the Giants to re-instate him.

    But that desire for the majors hopefully will serve him well in trying to return as a professional.



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