Remember Angel Villalona? Back in 2008, Villalona was ranked as the 20th best prospect in baseball by Keith Law, who had this to say about the Dominican first baseman who cost the Giants a record $2.1 million to sign in 2006.
Villalona himself is very physically developed, with an early-20s build even before he turned 16; while this will probably force him over to first base, it does provide for significant power potential. He has a quick bat and a fluid swing, and has shown the ability to use the whole field. He’s a long way off and has only played five games above rookie ball, but the physical promise here — a middle-of-the-order bat with a 40-plus homer ceiling — is tremendous.
To say that Villalona’s career got side tracked would be an understatement worthy of suggesting that water is wet. In the fall of 2009, Villalona became the prime suspect in the investigation into the murder of Mario Felix de Jesus Velete in the Dominican Republic.
There are two versions of the events that transpired on the night of Velete’s murder, but both begin with:
Villalona went with a posse of eight friends to Tony Super Fria, a popular disco bar on the hottest nightclub corner, La Romana, where the music pounds so loudly it makes bottles jump on the sidewalk. This being the Dominican, where many people tote guns, everyone is frisked at the door. But on this night, someone got through Tony’s door.
Depending on who you talk to, Villalona either shot the victim in the back after Velete argued with one of his friends, or he had absolutely nothing to do with a shooting that occurred outside the club, other than to leave the scene of the crime with a sense of urgency after the shot rang out.
Nonetheless, he turned himself into local police the very next day in an attempt to clear his name. He was subsequently arrested and spent three months in jail before finally being released on bond, only after the victim’s family (who had previously received approximately $140,000 in a settlement with Villalona) requested that charges be dropped.
Despite the request, Villalona stayed in the Dominican Republic for two years awaiting trial, until this past autumn when charges were finally dropped due to a lack of evidence caused by witnesses changing their previous testimony. During that time, he sued his team in Dominican court for $5 million due to an apparent breach of contract. The suit was eventually settled, with Villalona being taken off of the restricted list, and added to the team’s 40 man roster.
However, today it was announced that despite being cleared of wrongdoing in the death of Velete, Villalona has not been approved for a U.S. visa. The reason given seems as subjective as it is curious. The first baseman is said to no longer be considered an “elite athlete” due to a medical or conditioning issue, and therefore ineligible for the visa he seeks.
Baseball America writer Ben Badler has his suspicions about this reasoning:
There’s no way Angel Villalona’s visa issue is over his conditioning. Someone is hiding something.
Of course. Why would anyone imagine a simple resolution to any issue involving Villalona?