LOS ANGELES -- Don't be fooled by the statistics. Angel Villalona is progressing.
The source of this upbeat outlook is Felipe Alou, who has learned a thing or two about baseball during more than 50 years in the game. Alou, one of general manager Brian Sabean's special assistants, has watched Villalona play as much as any of the Giants' talent evaluators, perhaps more than most.
"I've seen this kid from Arizona [Rookie level] to Spring Training to now," Alou said Monday as he began a four-day assignment to help Sabean scrutinize the Giants as Thursday's Trade Deadline approaches.
Villalona, who signed a $2.1 million bonus amid much fanfare as a 16-year-old two years ago, entered Monday batting .247 with 12 home runs and 43 RBIs for low Class A Augusta. He has struck out 92 times in 344 at-bats and has recorded a .295 on-base percentage, but his improvement and potential were reflected by his selection to the World team for the XM All-Star Futures Game.
"He struggled at the beginning, but he's a very important part of that club now," Alou said.
Alou pointed out that Villalona needed to gain familiarity with the team concept, which might sound basic to most people. But since Villalona had played relatively little organized baseball when the Giants signed him out of the Dominican Republic, that aspect of the game was mostly foreign to him.
"There's a lot of stuff they don't know that they have to learn the hard way as professionals," Alou said, referring to players of Villalona's youth and experience level. "He's on his way to being a man and a good player."
Billed as a third baseman as an amateur, Villalona has played first base for Augusta.
"I don't know if we know right now what his final destination is going to be," Alou said.
Alou also exulted about catcher-first baseman Pablo Sandoval, who went from dominating Class A pitching at San Jose (.359, 12 homers, 59 RBIs in 68 games) to crushing Double-A pitching at Connecticut (.342, six homers, 26 RBIs in 27 games). Moreover, the Defenders have climbed above .500 since Sandoval joined them.
"He's brought a lot of life, a lot of energy and a lot of home runs and RBIs," Alou said.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.