With four picks (Steve Moyer, Alex Patton, Tim McLeod, and Gene McCaffrey) and one pan (Rotoman) in Rotoman's 2009 Fantasy Baseball Guide, Mike Aviles was one of the touts' most popular players in the Guide.
He was also a popular player at Ron Shandler's First Pitch Arizona Symposium, but not in the same way at all. All four experts on the panel called Aviles a fluke.
There were no picks or pans in Rotoman's 2008 magazine, but then there was no profile on Mike Aviles. The cover advertised "1,500 Players Profiles Prices Projections", but there was nothing on Aviles.
That's understandable, given the fact that Aviles entered 2008 as a 27-year-old career minor league who even at his highest point was no better than a B- prospect.
(Though it's also surprising, given the incredible number of players that Rotoman's magazine profiles. I won't keep plugging it all winter, but it's a great magazine.)
Aviles earned that B- from John Sickels in 2005, off of a 300/352/443 season at Wilmington (A-ball) in 2004. It was a nice year, but Aviles had been a 23-year-old at A-ball. He either needed to move fast or he wasn't going to move.
We know the rest of the story. Aviles stagnated and went from being a borderline prospect to minor league filler. At age 27, he didn't look like he was going to make it.
Sickels does a much better job than I do with his summary of Aviles' career path.
So what to make of Aviles in 2009?
The article Sickels links to has some good points - both in the main body of the article and in the comments section. No one in Sickels' peanut gallery expects him to post another 800 OPS; however a 750 OPS might be realistic. The average major league SS last year had a 694 OPS.
For us, this exercise in "average major league SS" is academic. If Aviles puts up a 725 OPS, my guess is that he'll put up poorer stats AB per AB than he did last year. What matters of course is not any kind of AB per AB comparison, but how many AB Aviles puts up this year.
If Aviles is worse than he was in 2008 but better than the average SS he should be the Royals starting SS all year. If you want to make a rough projection, start by extrapolating 550 AB worth of stats from what Aviles did over 419 AB last year. You come up with 13/67/11/.325, and a $27 player in 4x4.
No one thinks that's realistic. If you pare that down to 10/67/8/.260, you've got a $13 player.
That sounds realistic. And given how thin SS was in 2008, how well Aviles did in 2008, and how likely it is he'll have the job on Opening Day, my bid will probably be $12 or $13.
This is where the "picks and pans" need more than a thumbs up or thumbs down approach. You need to know what Aviles is worth this year. If you're expecting another $20 season from Aviles this year, then he probably is a fluke. But if you're more realistic, Aviles will be a bargain in leagues where everyone expects him to be back in AAA come June.