With all eyes on Kyle Crick’s first home start at San Jose Friday night, it was offense that stole the show.
Crick’s outing was cut short against Diamondbacks High-A affiliate Visalia, much in part to some sour defense. The big right-hander departed after 3 2/3 innings after surrendering five runs – though only one run was earned. Visalia extended its lead to 7-0 in the fifth. But San Jose came roaring back with a five-spot in the bottom of the frame, sparked by the bat, and the legs, of Angel Villalona.
Villalona led off the inning with a sharp single to left. After advancing to second on a walk to Chris Lofton, Villalona flashed some surprising speed on the base paths when the big first baseman tagged on a medium-deep fly ball to right off the bat of Jeff Arnold.
It seemed to defy all previous scouting reports when Villalona went sprinting into third base with an athletic pop-up slide. Granted, most of those scouting reports are from three years ago, when Villalona was a big-bodied 18-year-old
It’s now hard to imagine that amid the prolific San Jose roster in 2009, many considered Villalona one of the most exciting prospects in the mix. Just a year previous, he was considered the top prospect in the Giants organization. Heading into 2009 only Bumgarner and Buster Posey were ranked ahead of him.
Villalona had a decent showing that season, batting .267 with nine home runs and 42 RBIs. Solid output, considering Villalona, at 18, was the youngest position player in the California League that season.
The knock against him had nothing to do with his baseball tools. It was his work ethic at which scouts scoffed. Sure, he was considered a hulking man-child. But the fear among scouts was something of a worst-case-Pablo-Sandoval-scenario. Add to the fear that Villalona seemed to lack the passion gene, and at 6-foot-3 had much more body to tame than Sandoval.
But now, after a long legal drama unfolded for Villalona in his home country of the Dominican Republic, the one-time prospect may finally be ready to emerge from the massive dark cloud that has loomed with every mention of his name for the past three years. And if one 90-foot increment is any indication, Villalona may at long last be ready to exhibit the massive talent which the Giants took a chance on by signing him as an international free agent in 2007.