A month back, a main topic of conversation around the Detroit Tigers was the stability at the catcher position. They had Gerald Laird, but who else?
At first it was Matt Treanor, an offseason free agent addition. At age 33, he didn't get a single hit in 13 at-bats before he went to the 60-Day DL with a torn labrum.
Next, the Tigers turned to the other Flyin' Hawaiian, Dane Sardinha. Dane is 30 years old, and hit .097 in 31 at-bats with 16 strikeouts.
Things obviously weren't on the up-and-up for the backup catcher position.
The Tigers took a chance with Dusty Ryan, a young catcher who played a little bit in the 2008 season. Ryan was the best of the three backup catchers Detroit tried out. But, that wasn't saying much. Dusty hit .160 in 25 at-bats. In 78 innings behind the dish, he did have a 1.000 fielding percentage and threw out 33 percent of runners.
Dusty Ryan was solid, but Detroit was looking for a little pop in a inconsistent offensive lineup.
Enter Alex Avila.
At Double-A Erie, Avila hit only .264, but he had hit 12 home runs with 50+ runs batted in. Not only could Alex hit, he had a .993 fielding percentage behind the plate and gunned down 44 percent of runners stealing.
Avila was selected in the fifth round of the 2008 MLB Amateur Draft in June. He was called up to the Major Leagues on August 5th of 2009. Quick minor league stint, eh?
Since being called up, Avila is making a name for himself. Hitting .471 through 19 plate apperances, also slapping two home runs and four doubles.
Not only has he crushed the ball, he has the eye of a 10-year veteran. He takes pitches that most young players would swing freely at. Alex watches the pitches at the letters and the low and outside fastball go by for balls.
In his 15 plate apperances with runners in scoring position, Avila has five runs batted in. The average MLB player with 15 plate apperances with runners in scoring position has only a single run batted.
In four of the five games he has appeared in, he has had multiple-hit games.
He also has been pretty solid behind the plate. Still with a perfect fielding percentage in his 43 innings of work, and also throwing out 33 percent of runners.
The Tigers did a great job selecting a player already apart of the family, as Alex's father, Al, is the assistant general manager of the team.
The future is looking good behind the plate for Detroit. With Gerald Laird being great defensively and Avila already having the offensive ability, Alex could mix his God-given ability with a little learning to become the next Major League stand out catcher.
Watch out Joe Mauer, you may not be the only dominant catcher in the A.L. Central anymore.
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