Former top prospect Angel Villalona, whose career looked to be over following a 2009 murder charge in the Dominican Republic, had his work visa approved by the U.S. Immigration Service and the Giants expect him to be at Scottsdale Stadium when position players report Feb. 23.
The Giants have “received the appropriate approval notices” from the U.S. Immigration Service, club vice president Bobby Evans said.
Villalona, 21, has not stepped foot in the U.S. since September, 2009, when he was arrested and charged in the barroom shooting that left 25-year-old Mario Felix de Jesus Velete dead in La Romana. At the time, Villalona was on family leave from Single-A San Jose while rehabbing a quadriceps strain. After nearly two years of incarceration or house arrest, all charges against the slugging prospect were dropped. According to reports in the Dominican, Villalona also settled with the victim’s family to prevent a civil suit.
Major League Baseball removed Villalona from its restricted list late last year and the Giants added him to their 40-man roster to prevent another club from plucking him away in the Rule 5 draft. All players on the 40-man roster receive automatic invitations to big league camp in the spring.
At this point, it’s almost certain that Villalona will be playing for the Giants in some capacity this season. Most likely, he will begin in the minors, seeing as it’s been about two full seasons since he last played.
It’ll be a “wait and see” situation at this point. But the one thing that’s for certain now is that he’ll have competition for first base.