Giants prospect Angel Villalona cleared of murder charge, but still can’t get visa

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Angel Villalona re-signed with the Giants and dropped his $5 million lawsuit against the team after being cleared of murder charges in the Dominican Republic, but the one-time top prospect has not been granted a visa and won’t be reporting to spring training on time.

Giants vice president Bobby Evans said today that the visa has not been approved because Villalona is not considered an “elite athlete” due to what is believed to be medical or conditioning issues.

However, as Baseball America writer and Latin American prospect guru Ben Badler just tweeted: “There’s no way Angel Villaona’s visa issue is over his conditioning. Someone is hiding something.”

Stay tuned …

Diamondbacks, T.J. McFarland avoid arbitration

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Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports reports that the Diamondbacks and reliever T.J. McFarland have avoided arbitration, agreeing on a $1.45 million salary for the 2019 season. McFarland, in his third of four years of arbitration eligibility, filed for $1.675 million while the Diamondbacks countered at $1.275 million. McFarland ended up settling for just under the midpoint of those two figures.

McFarland, 29, was terrific out of the bullpen for the D-Backs last season, finishing with a 2.00 ERA and a 42/22 K/BB ratio in 72 innings. While the lefty may not miss a lot of bats, he does induce quite a few grounders. His 67.9 percent ground ball rate last season was the third highest among relievers with at least 50 innings, trailing only Brad Ziegler (71.1%) and Scott Alexander (70.6%).

McFarland was dominant against left-handed hitters, limiting them to a .388 OPS last season, but the D-Backs deployed him nearly twice as often against right-handed hitters, who posted an aggregate .764 OPS against him. It will be interesting to see if the club decides to use him more as a platoon reliever in 2019.