If you follow the Kansas City Royals (which excludes everyone reading this) then you know all about Mike Aviles. He’s an enigmatic power/speed combo with a penchant for poor pitch selection, but a ton of talent just waiting to fully blossom.
If you still follow the Red Sox (and haven’t taken off your pink hat or jumped off the Tobin Bridge prematurely) then you may be thinking, ‘Hey, I think we have something here with this guy.”
Through this entire Red Sox September swoon; Aviles has filled-in admirably for the injured Kevin Youkilis. Over his last 40 ABs, Aviles is hitting .415 with a .659 slugging percentage. That sounds like your usual Youkilis-type streak. Instead, it’s coming from a Kansas City Royals castoff.
When most people think of Aviles, they tend to think of his speed. Which may be exactly what encouraged WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford to compare him to Dave Roberts in Red Sox folklore after the Red Sox acquired Aviles in exchange for Yamaico Navarro.
“You think about it,” he said with a grin.
“I always felt I had enough speed to steal bases. But it was one of those deals where I didn’t feel like I would ever get a good jump,” said Aviles, who is 14-for-17 in stolen base attempts this season. “I didn’t know what I was looking for. I was basically trying to out-run the ball and was thrown out a lot in the minor leagues (52-for-82).”
Aviles turned to then-Royals first base coach Rusty Kuntz — the man who helped Jason Bay become one of the game’s most efficient baserunners — to help find a part of the infielder’s game he hadn’t yet uncovered.
Could Aviles be a game-changing base stealer for the Red Sox? Sure, why not? Who knows who is going to be the guy in those kinds of situations?
Was that quoting of Aviles just a cheap attempt to get Rusty Kuntz’ name in my article? You cannot prove that. we can all at least agree that Aviles is no Roberts. I still don’t understand Bradford’s reasoning for even bring Roberts into the discussion. Maybe if it were Joey Gathright?
All we know at this point is that Aviles has been one of the few bright spots for the Red Sox in September. While all of the Chicken Little’s cry that the sky is falling, while all of the radio pot-stirrers stir their self-indulging soups and while the rest of us root for the New York Yankees, Aviles has positioned himself to be the starting third baseman this postseason.
And on a complete sidebar: Given how streaky this team has been this year, I can easily see them winning a bunch of games in a row and with that, listening to everyone backtrack and re-position their opinions. My whole feeling is just wait. Just wait until you have real conclusions before flipping out over everything.
Back on topic: Some of the good things you can point to with Aviles are his power and speed. He has league-average power which profiles nicely for a middle infielder but probably below average for the hot corner. He also makes very good contact at around 85%. Although much like our left fielder, Carl Crawford, Aviles does not walk much and has a tendency to swing at pitches outside the zone a lot.
This lack of patience has played a big role in his shuttling between the Major leagues and AAA.
Some people even consider Aviles to be an AAAA-player who may never find a full-time role in the big leagues.
Right now, we are seeing one of his good streaks carried by a .470 BABIP over the last month. He’s not the greatest fielder you’ve ever seen and he does seem to battle injuries (134 DL days in the last three years), but right now the Red Sox need him to inject some good fortune into the lineup.
Aviles may be streaky, but so what – this whole year has been streaky. Let’s just get to the postseason and see if we can’t get this tide to turn. Maybe this Kansas City castoff will have a big role in what we hope is a better month of October.