Once upon a time, Angel Villalona was a highly regarded first base prospect with the Giants. However, he hasn’t played in the United States since 2009 because of a murder charge in his native Dominican Republic. Nearly four years later, he’s going to get the opportunity to resume his career stateside.
According to Ben Badler of Baseball America, Villalona has received a travel visa and will be in big league camp with the Giants this spring. He is expected to join the team next week in Arizona.
Villalona spent three months in jail after being accused of killing a 25-year-old man in a nightclub in September of 2009, but the charges were eventually dismissed following a $139,000 settlement with the victim’s family. After dropping a breach of contract lawsuit against the Giants, Villalona was added back to the 40-man roster last offseason and protected from the Rule 5 Draft. However, because he failed to obtain a visa, he spent last season in the Dominican Summer League.
Putting Villalona’s legal problems aside, the odds are against him reestablishing himself as a prospect, as his stock was on the decline even before the arrest. The 22-year-old compiled a terrible 235/45 K/BB ratio over his first three seasons in pro ball and had issues with conditioning.
World Series Game 1 was billed as a battle of aces, the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw against Chris Sale of the Red Sox. Between them, they have 14 All-Star Game nominations. Kershaw has won three Cy Young Awards. Sale could his first Cy Young Award this year. Among his 10 seasons with at least 110 innings pitched, Kershaw has never posted a sub-2.92 ERA. Sale has been at 2.90 or below in each of the last two seasons. The two have combined for over 4,000 career strikeouts and both have averaged better than a strikeout per inning over their careers.
And yet Tuesday’s Game 1 was anything but a pitcher’s duel between Kershaw and Sale. Though a couple of fielding mistakes weren’t of any help to Kershaw in the first inning, Red Sox batters were squaring him up good. Of the five balls put in play in the first inning, three had exit velocities of 100 MPH or higher. Of the 12 total balls put in play against him overall, five reached triple digits in exit velo.
Kershaw gave up a pair of runs in the first, another run in the third on a J.D. Martinez double to straightaway center field, and another two in the fifth. Kershaw led off the fifth by walking Mookie Betts, then giving up a single to Andrew Benintendi, ending his night. Ryan Madson relieved Kershaw and proceeded to allow both inherited runners to score. All told, Kershaw yielded five runs on seven hits and three walks with five strikeouts on 79 pitches in four-plus innings.
Sale, meanwhile, was on the hook for individual runs in the second, third, and fifth. Dodger hitters weren’t squaring him up quite as well as the Red Sox batters squared up Kershaw, but Sale was still more hittable than usual. Of the eight balls put in play against him, four were at least 90 MPH in exit velo. One of the runs was a no-doubt solo home run to Matt Kemp in the second. The Dodgers chased Sale in the fifth when he issued a leadoff walk to Brian Dozier. Matt Barnes relieved him allowed the inherited runner to score. Overall, Sale threw 91 pitches in four-plus innings, serving up three runs on five hits and two walks with seven strikeouts.
The game is now, as has been generally the case throughout this postseason, a battle of the bullpens.