Detroit Tigers: Why Alex Avila Needs to Step Up in 2013

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Detroit Tigers: Why Alex Avila Needs to Step Up in 2013
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Alex Avila has been around baseball all his life, and has been around the Detroit Tigers for more than a decade.

But if he doesn't step up, that tenure in Detroit may be coming to an end sooner than Avila had hoped.

Avila's father, Al, has been the Tigers assistant general manager for 11 years and has groomed his son to play baseball.

Avila got the chance to play for his father's team when the Tigers drafted him in the fifth round of the 2008 amateur draft, and made his major league debut in 2009.

The Florida native got his first chance at a feature role as catcher for the Tigers in 2010, and had a breakout season in his first year as the everyday starter in 2011, batting .295 with a .389 on-base percentage, 19 home runs and 82 RBI's in 141 games, earning his first career All-Star selection.

But after coming into last season with elevated expectations to bring his game to the next level, the 26-year-old had an extremely disappointing year and could be on his way out in the near future.

In 2012, Avila hit just .243 with nine home runs, 48 RBI's and 104 strikeouts in 116 games.

Jim Rogash/Getty Images

He dealt with several minor injuries that sidelined him every now and then, including missing 13 games in June with a right hamstring strain. Even when he was in the lineup every day for an extended period of time, Avila never found a consistent groove, and frequently went into lengthy slumps.

In September, as the Tigers were pushing the Chicago White Sox for the American League Central Championship, Avila had one of the worst months of his career, going 12-for-55 in 18 games, and only had multiple hits in one of those performances.

He took a beating behind the plate on a daily basis, and although he had one of the best caught-stealing percentages among catchers in the AL, he never found sustained success offensively.

According to Matt Snyder of CBSSports.com, Avila and the Tigers agreed on Jan. 18 to a one-year, $2.95 million deal, allowing Avila to avoid arbitration.

The Tigers haven't appeared to be interested signing Avila to a long-term deal, and although he won't be a free agent until 2016, he'll be eligible for arbitration again next season.

And if he doesn't perform this year, especially in the postseason, Detroit could look elsewhere for a starting catcher.

In the last two seasons, Avila has folded when the bright lights of the playoffs come on, hitting just .129 with two home runs and three RBI's in 20 games.

Should the Tigers offer Avila a long-term contract?

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The Tigers have given Avila every chance to succeed and thrive as the starting catcher, but he needs to provide some offensive pop in 2013 to guarantee he'll be back in the future.

With the firepower he has around him, Avila doesn't need to put up spectacular numbers, but he can't be an offensive liability either.

After batting just .176 with one home run and nine RBI's against left-handers last season, Avila needs to provide more balance next season, and stay healthy to ensure he remains the starter in Detroit.

If he continues to slide, the Tigers might start to consider other options at catcher.

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