Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Mike Aviles 2011

I've noticed a narrative surrounding Mike Aviles floating around in the Royals blogosphere that goes along these general lines.

I can't believe that the Royals won't bring up Aviles and let him play! Wilson Betemit stinks! Chris Getz stinks! What's wrong with the Royals?! Mike Aviles has something like 100,000 extra base hits at Triple-A? Are they trying to build up Betemit's trade value or something? What's the point? Aviles isn't going to save the franchise, but he should up here now!
And so on.

Obviously, I'm exaggerating for effect. But there is a segment of fans that is downright irate at the idea that Aviles is wasting away in Triple-A. While I can see the argument for bringing Aviles back up to the Majors, let's look at the other side of the coin for a moment.

He wasn't doing that well in the Majors
According the Fangraphs, Aviles had a 0.0 WAR in his 184 plate appearances prior to his demotion. Baseball Reference doesn't believe Aviles was even doing that well; they had him posting a negative 0.3 WAR. While Aviles' .218 BABIP speaks to some bad luck, his low line drive percentage says that Aviles' problems weren't solely due to luck.

He isn't a young kid who isn't getting a fair shake
The way some have reacted to Aviles' demotion, you would think that he was a 23-year-old phenom who the organization jerked around and then shafted. Mike Aviles is 30 years old. While I could see the arguments for leaving him up in June - or bringing him now - the "he's the future of the franchise" isn't one of those arguments. There are several players in the minors who have put up equal or superior numbers than Aviles...which brings me to my third point.

Context, context, context
Yes, Aviles has been good in AAA. But he hasn't been terrific. Aviles' 1012 OPS ranks 19th in the PCL among hitters with as many AB or more than he has in 2011. That's very solid, but it's not spectacular. It's notable that almost all of the hitters ahead of Aviles in OPS who have spent time in the Majors have not exactly ran with their opportunities. Chris Davis, Anthony Rizzo, Eric Hosmer, Mike Carp, Sean Burroughs, Mike Wilson, Eric Young Jr., David Cooper and Jerry Sands all saw or have seen their OPSs drop significantly during their stints in the Majors. Only Eric Thames and arguably Wily Mo Pena can be classified as success stories at the moment.

Does this mean that there isn't merit to the idea that the Royals should promote Aviles? Of course not. Aviles' versatility would probably help the big club. He has a lifetime OPS+ of 98; there are at least a few clubs in the bigs that would like to have that at shortstop. And I'm not a scout. Maybe the performance spike at Triple-A does have significance.

However, don't be certain that it does, and don't get sucked into the relative hype surrounding Aviles. Maybe he'll get called up. But, then again, maybe he won't.


Number 3 said...

Obviously, his OBP was horrible (.257), but the guy was still on pace for 15HR/90RBI/30SB with 500 at-bats. Would he hit those numbers? Probably not. But 10/70/20 is still a high quality production line, especially for a guy with good versatility and who's shown glimpses of being above average ('08 & '10).

Toz said...

Part of this, of course, is the difference between fantasy baseball and real baseball.

Ultimately, Aviles would not have reached those numbers. His 13% line drive rate and .218 BABIP (along with his K/BB) tell the story. Aviles' numbers look closer to his failed 2009 rather than 2008 or 2010. His OBP was .257 at the time of his demotion. That is insanely bad for a major league player. Qualifiers with similar OBP: Chone Figgins, Dan Uggla, Ian Desmond and Yuni Betancourt.

What are the differences between Aviles and that group of players? Uggla was a huge focus for the Braves in the offseason, and still hits with a lot of pop. Desmond has a .278 BABIP and can play defense. Figgins is essentially DFA'd. And the Brewers have no other options; if they did, Yuni would be long gone.

Escobar is a whiz with the glove; Getz has been serviceable as a hitter and fielder; and Betemit, well, let's just leave it at a close to .350 OBP, hoping he gets traded. When you want to bring the kids up, Aviles is the odd man out.