Avelino Learning Quickly

The Yankees signed shortstop Abiatal Avelino out of the Dominican Republic back in December for $300,000 and the 17-year old immediately proved in his debut season that he not only has the natural talent to be a future impact player, especially on the defensive side, but the makeup and polish to adapt quickly as he moves up the minor league ladder.

"I think it went well," Avelino said of his debut season through the help of a translator. "I know at the beginning it started off slow. It was my first time in professional baseball but I feel I picked it up.

"I learned mostly about situations, how to play the situational game as well as how to play for your team. Before that you're playing [just] in tournaments and showcases, you're there for yourself.

"But when you sign you're there for yourself but you're also there to help your team win. I learned that this year, that was very big for me."

A great sign for any first-year player is to show tangible evidence of continuously getting better. And for Avelino, who certainly controls the infield with the authority on the defensive side, he showed marked improvements as his debut season went on.

He hit .257 in his first month, .278 in his second month, and tapped off his professional debut season with a whopping .370 average in the final month of the season with DSL Yankees1 to finish the year hitting .302 with 13 extra-base hits and a discerning eye at the plate [27 walks, 34 strikeouts].

Beyond the numbers though it's his approach both in the field and at the plate that really stands out. Not the least bit intimidated, he plays the game so under control that he looks like a seasoned veteran most of the time.

"My glove, fielding," he listed as his strengths. "Since I was a young kid -- I've been playing baseball since I was four or five years old -- every time I played, it didn't matter who was hitting, if they hit me a hard ground ball I was always there in front of it.

"I have a lot of confidence in my hands. I don't care who is hitting, I'll get in front of it."

Boasting a plus arm, it is his calming presence overall that puts him head and shoulders above many of his peers right now, and the walk totals in his first year show it too.

"It doesn't matter either when I'm facing pitchers," he said. "They're the same pitcher and I'm the same hitter. It doesn't matter who is pitching, I take that same mentality to the plate with me."

Another great sign for all young players is exactly knowing what needs to be tweaked in their games and Avelino doesn't hesitate when it comes to the changes needed to be made.

"Defensively, recognizing the hitter is something I could have done better," he admitted. "Is he a slow runner? Is he a fast runner? That would affect how I receive the ball and get rid of it.

"Offensively, my load, making it nice and smooth instead of flexing. A nice easy load and come through the ball, those are two things that I think I need to work on.

"I really want to work on my offense; on my load, a nice easy load and hit through the ball and work on my pitch selection, be a little more selective on the pitches I'm swinging at."

Truly one of the higher makeup prospects coming up soon from the Yankees' Dominican academy, it's not as if Avelino doesn't have physical tools either. While he will never be confused with a burner on the base paths, he has monstrous hands for such a young player and that bodes very well for future power potential.

"I've been working a lot in the gym, looking to get stronger," he said. "I think I can be an impact player on both sides of the ball."

To become a true impact player though requires more than just tools and production. It also implores the desire to be better and in Austin Tyler-like fashion, Avelino has that inner fire.

"I feel like from what I've shown that I've opened up some eyes but that doesn't mean I'm going to stop. I'm going to keep working to get better and keep opening people's eyes," he concluded.

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