Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
In August 2006, the San Francisco Giants signed then 16-year-old Angel Villalona to a $2.1 million contract—at the time, the largest contract the team had ever given to an international free agent.
In 2009, Villalona was playing for the Single-A San Jose Giants and was injured. He was granted permission to return to his native Dominican Republic, and everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.
In late September 2009, the Giants' top prospect was charged with murder in the Dominican Republic as reported in this ESPN article from September 21, 2009.
Since then, Villalona has been cleared of the charges. In 2012, Villalona was denied an elite athlete visa because he was deemed too out-of-shape to be considered such. He has been granted the visa for 2013 and is in camp with the Giants.
This may very well be the most intriguing story coming out of the Giants spring training, and one that everyone should be following closely. There is no real understanding of the Giants' plans for him at this point, but he is still young—he won’t turn 23 until August 13.
If Villalona can show that he can still hit, he may work his way back into the organization's plans in the not-too-distant future. There is also the possibility that the team is hoping that he plays well enough in the minors this year that he can be an attractive trade piece for another team.
The Giants have a very strong leadership base of Latin players on their current team. Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval are all established veterans who are very serious about the game of baseball. Hopefully, their work ethic and drive to win will rub off on the kid, and he can turn his career around.