The San Francisco Giants made an organizational move on Sunday, promoting 22-year-old first baseman Angel Villalona to the Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels. While most of his numbers do not look that great this year, Villalona has arguably the greatest power-hitting potential in the Giants’ system and is already on the Giants’ 40-man roster. It was time for him to move up after re-acclimating himself to American baseball following a three-year layoff.
Though he has had two prolonged dry spells, one at the beginning of the season and one during the past several weeks, Villalona certainly looked like the real deal during his hot streak from late April into early June. He recovered well enough from his poor start to be named to the California-Carolina League All-Star Game, which he played in last week.
Villalona’s statistics are not overwhelming at first glance — he only has a .229 average and .433 slugging percentage — however, he has some pretty impressive power numbers this year. Out of his 65 hits this year, nearly half have been for extra bases; he has 16 doubles and 14 home runs. If he can become a more successful hitter for average, Villalona has the tools to become an elite power hitter, and can definitely use his 6-foot-3, 257-pound frame to his advantage. It’s easy to see him becoming a player similar to the Cleveland Indians‘ Mark Reynolds or the Toronto Blue Jays‘ Edwin Encarnacion, who may not have spectacular plate discipline but have incredible raw power.
It will be interesting to see how playing time is created for Villalona in Richmond. The Squirrels’ current first baseman is Ricky Oropesa, who was ranked the Giants’ number 17 prospect prior to the season and impressed in big-league spring training. However, Oropesa has struggled in the first half, as many players do in the Eastern League. He’s only hitting .207 with six home runs and 23 RBI through the first three months of the year. It’s unknown as of now whether Oropesa will be swapped for Villalona or if they will coexist in Double-A.
While it may be just a change of scenery more than anything, Richmond will be an interesting challenge for Villalona. It’s the place where major-league quality hitters usually separate themselves from the pack. So if he can hit in a league marred by inconsistent weather and pitcher’s parks, he should continue moving up the ladder. On the flip side, he can further tarnish his reputation with a bad showing. It’s all up to Villalona to determine his status.