The Kansas City Royals called up Meibrys Viloria from the depths of A-ball this past September strictly out of need. Salvy was hurt, the Royals needed another catcher, and Viloria happened to be on the 40-man roster. Pulling kids out of A-ball is not a normal strategy for players not named Juan Soto. Needless to say I was a bit intrigued when the Royals decided to call on Viloria to back up Cam Gallagher.
Viloria has been an interesting prospect for quite some time now. Back in 2016, Viloria won MVP of the Pioneer League (rookie) while playing for the Idaho Falls Chukars. He hit .376/.436/.606/1.042 with 6 HR, 28 doubles, and 3 triples in 58 games, and I think everyone kinda went, “Whoa.” Viloria has a really pretty swing from the left side of the plate and I think 2016 was the first time people started really started to realize what kind of potential the kid may have. (Do note that the Pioneer League is notoriously offense friendly so the numbers are a bit skewed despite Viloria’s still impressive performance)
After a rather pedestrian age-20 season in Lexington in 2017, Viloria got off to a bit of a slow start to the 2018 campaign in High-A Wilmington. Here was Viloria’s OPS by month to begin 2018:
- April – .674
- May – .581
- June – .542
During the month of April, Viloria walked in 7.2% of his PA’s and struck out in 20.3%. In May, those numbers shifted to 16.7% and 15.5%, respectively. In June, Viloria kept his BB% up to 12% and struck out 24% of the time. Viloria was striking out a bit too much, but he was walking plenty. His ability to get on base via the walk was never in doubt, he just wasn’t getting hits. Here was Viloria’s BABIP by month to begin the year:
- April – .298
- May – .268
- June – .200
Then something changed in July. Maybe it was the weather, I don’t claim to know, but all of a sudden Meibrys Viloria hit .360/.421/.488/.909 with 2 HR and 5 doubles in 22 games. His BABIP jumped up to .403 and his K% came tumbling back down to 12.4%. I have no idea what got into Viloria in July, but he looked super exciting for the last two months of the season (.738 OPS in August before getting called up).
When Viloria got to Kansas City, I got my first lengthy look at him behind home plate. I wrote this past spring that “Viloria is a big league catcher” when I got my first live look at him in Spring Training. I did not expect that to happen so quickly. Viloria, however, looked so impressive behind the plate that the Royals felt comfortable allowing him to handle a big league pitching staff in September. He did not disappoint.
Needless to say, I was ecstatic to hear that Viloria would be headed to the Arizona Fall League to get some more games in this fall. So far he’s hit .500/.600/.750/1.350 in two games with the Surprise Saguaros with a pair of doubles, three RBI, and a pair of walks. I will be following his progress in Arizona very closely this fall and I am extremely excited to see him in Spring Training and with AA Northwest Arkansas in 2019.
*One thing of note on Viloria. His ground ball percentage (GB%) was 48.7% this year at Wilmington and 55.6% in KC this season. For someone as strong as Viloria, who hits the ball hard and has a good swing, he hits entirely too many ground balls. He’ll need to get it in the air more often to be a productive hitter. If he can do that, look out.