Pronounced May-breeze vill-OH-ree-ah, I assure you it’s no breeze.
If you decided to stick with me, let’s continue.
Last fall, the Kansas City Royals added a young catcher to their 40-man roster. Meibrys Viloria was thought a year or two away from being a year or two away from reaching the big leagues, but he was eligible for the Rule 5 Draft last winter.
Thus, the Royals added him to the 40 despite minimal experience above Rookie ball. The former middle infielder from Colombia would be turning 20 in a couple months (February) and is, by far, the youngest player on the Royals 40-man roster.
Breakout pitcher, and a Rule 5 selection himself Brad Keller, as well as another 2018 breakout player, Adalberto Mondesi, were born in 1995.
Viloria was born in 1997. The Royals are very young, but one of the vets, teammate Ian Kennedy’s pro career started when Viloria was just nine years old.
Still raw at catcher, Viloria quickly batted his way through Rookie ball. Over three seasons, he played 149 games at the level.
Most notably, in 2016, he hit a sizzling .376 with 28 doubles and 55 RBI in 58 games for the Pioneer League Idaho Falls club. He hit six home runs, as many as he had hit in all of Rookie ball.
He moved to full-season competition last year, suiting up for Low-A Lexington. He hit .259 with 25 doubles and collected 91 hits in 101 games, also notching a career-high eight homers.
After being added to the 40-man roster, he was promoted to High-A Wilmington (—side note: the Royals have a lot of -ton affiliates between Wilmington, Lexington and Rookie league Burlington—) and continued to impress.
Home runs were at six again, with a downtick in doubles at 16, but he did walk 40 times and had 93 hits in 100 games. He also had his best defensive year behind the plate and threw out a fantastic 41% of baserunners (38/54).
Tae All-Star Salvador Perez can certainly appreciate that.
When rosters expanded a few weeks ago, Viloria was not expected to be recalled all the way from High-A, even with his spot on the 40.
However, he was indeed green-lit for the majors and made his MLB debut on September 2nd, going 1-for-3 with a double, walk and two RBI.
It’s not all shiny skies for the rapidly developing Viloria. On Sunday, he overslept and was late to the ballpark, a bad look for certain in your first MLB week. But surely enough, he would replace Cam Gallagher in the lineup mid-game and went on to collect two hits.
He’s obviously in development everywhere at such a young age —and someone please get this man an alarm clock— but there is palpable excitement around Viloria right now, ranked 18th in John’s preseason Royals rank.
Fellow system catcher M.J. Melendez, a second round pick in 2017, maintains a higher profile, and has had a good year in Low-A Lexington. He’s 19, 20 in November, and is expected to be a major factor with Viloria in the Royals plans at catcher.
Salvador Perez is still somehow just 28 and locked up through 2021. He makes for quite the trade target in the coming years, with the Triple-A vet Gallagher (or someone else) profiling to be the catcher while Viloria starts next season at Double-A.
He’s rocketing through full-season ball so far, and Double-A might be considered audacious to some, but a great start to September on the field may even tick his accelerated clock even further toward the everyday catcher’s job in Kansas City.