Sell High Or Hold: Can Alex Avila Continue To Produce?

It has been a stunning start to the year for Alex Avila, who has seemingly come out of nowhere to emerge as a usable catcher in all formats.  Yes, he had 12 HR in329 AB in ’09 at Double-A, but did anyone see this type of production coming:

143 At Bats
.280 Batting Average (39 Hits)
8 Home Runs
29 RBI
17 Runs
2 Stolen Bases
.350 On Base Percentage
.531 Slugging Percentage
.337 Batting Average on Balls in Play

It is an extremely impressive line and places him among the leaders in catchers in all major categories: Second in HR (Russell Martin has 9); Tied for the lead RBI (with Brian McCann); Fifth in Average (Yadier Molina is hitting .311).

The real question is if he can maintain this production?

The injury to Buster Posey has brought the ability for a catcher to stay healthy into the forefront of fantasy owner’s minds.  The wear and tear limits them and, even if they remain in the lineup every day, it generally is tough for them to maintain production from April until September.  One place that we see this is in the BABIP, as there have only been three catchers since 2007 to have seasons with a BABIP of .330 or better:

  • Joe Mauer: 2008 (.342), 2009 (.373) & 2010 (.348)
  • Jorge Posada: 2007 (.386)
  • Geovany Soto: 2008 (.332)

When you couple the potential to regress in the BABIP department with his strikeout rate (30.1%), it would appear that his ability to maintain an impressive average would appear unlikely.  Before we assume that the strikeout rate will improve, he had posted a 23.4% mark at Double-A in 2009.  It is not an unrealistic mark.

As I mentioned earlier, the power is not unrealistic given the 12 he produced at Double-A (as well as having 23 doubles that season).  At just 24-years old, it really isn’t unprecedented to see him mature and add power.  Sure, he may not be able to maintain his current 17.4% HR/FB, but at the same time it is not an unrealistic number, either.

In other words, while the average may regress, there really is no reason to think that Avila cannot remain a productive option in all formats.  The Tigers have given him an opportunity, despite the signing of Victor Martinez, and he clearly has run with it.  There is no reason that fantasy owners shouldn’t be capitalizing on it as well.

What are your thoughts of Avila?  Do you think he can continue to produce?  Why or why not?

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  1. Chief Aloique says:

    I’m not claiming the ability to predict the future — none of us can — but I can’t get over the feeling that I’ve seen this movie many times before, most recently just last year.

    Miguel Olivo shot out of the gate hotter than a firecracker for the Rockies, chasing Iannetta to the bench and eventually, for a spell, to the minors. At the mid-season break, Olivo was hitting .325 with 11 HR, 42 runs and 42 RBI. OPS was .925 (!)

    But catchers who can maintain a line like that for a whole season are few and far between. Olivo was no exception. The rest of the way he hit .193 with 13 runs scored, 3 HR and 16 RBI, many I remember as a result of sac flies.

    For a catcher to maintain a line like that for a whole year he has to be named Bench or Fisk or Pudge, and no offense to Avila but his name just doesn’t fit into that group. Not saying he can’t do it, but history would seem to dictate that you should sell high on this streak — just not quite yet . . . you should still be able to squeeze a couple more weeks out of it.

  2. Chuck says:

    When I watched the Tigers playing in the National League the other day, everyone was concerned at only being able to see one of the catchers’ bats at a time. The Tigers think enough of him to put him in a straight platoon with VMart in that situation.
    When I watch Avila play, I feel like he could be the real deal. I offered Wieters to the guy in my league who lost Posey with the idea that I could ride Avila and that I’d get more for Wieters…Maybe I’m crazy, but he looks like a big leaguer to me…

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