Avila was a Tigers fifth round pick two years ago, after having been drafted out of high school three years earlier. Despite being the son of Tigers assistant general manager Al Avila, Alex is a legitimate prospect in his own right.
Avila started his college career at Alabama as a third baseman, before making the switch to catcher prior to his junior year. The Tigers drafted him with the intent on keeping him behind the dish, despite his inexperience.
After signing quickly following the draft, Avila was pushed aggressively to West Michigan where he hit .305 down the stretch, appearing in 58 games for the Whitecaps. His power didn't stand out as he adjusted to wood bats, but Avila did rip 14 doubles, and posted a strong walk rate.
The Tigers were aggressive with Avila to start the 2009 season, as he was pushed all the way to Double-A Erie. He saw action in 93 games with the Seawolves, posting a .264/.365/.450 line before being promoted to Detroit; shocking many in the industry.
While in Detroit, the 22-year old Avila showed that he was still raw behind the plate, but he also hit at a .279/.375/.590 clip that provided a spark for the team in a time of need. Avila's patient, left-handed stick was much needed as Gerald Laird slumped late in the year.
Following the 2009 season, Avila was sent to the Dominican Republic for winter ball, and while he struggled, he gained valuable experience; both of a baseball and a cultural nature.
The bat is the calling card for Avila, as he is a pure hitter with a wealth of offensive skills. He is a patient hitter that works counts and rarely chases pitches he can't handle. He recognizes pitches early and reacts accordingly. Some scouts believe his development as a catcher has been aided by his sound approach at the plate.
His power has shown very well at times, but he doesn't project for much more than above-average power on a daily basis. He should hit between 15-18 home runs annually, while also adding a fair number of doubles along the way. He is a below average runner, but his baseball intellect keeps him from becoming a base clogger.
Avila has made incredible strides defensively over the last two years. He has gone from a guy many scouts and coaches didn't believe could stick behind the dish, to a guy that should be a strong defensive catcher. He receives the ball well, though he can still improve. His throws are strong and accurate, and as he improves and refines his footwork, he could become an even better catch-and-throw player.
A savvy baseball player, Avila projects to continuing improving in many facets of the game. He is a diligent worker, and he is well liked by his teammates. He may never become a star behind the plate, but he has all the makings of a quality starting catcher at the big league level.
Performance Level Team AB AVG 2B HR RBI SO BB OBP% SLG% AA
Avila has been healthy so far in his career, and because he is so new to catching, his body has not been forced to endure the rigors of the position on a daily basis. He will likely be eased into the position, serving as a backup to Gerald Laird for much of this season, before possibly becoming a full time guy next year.
Avila is back in Detroit to start the year, as the Tigers opted to take his bat north over giving him extra time in Toledo to work on his defense. If he's not playing enough in Detroit, they may send him back and forth to Toledo a few times to make sure he gets at-bats and keeps his bat fresh.
Avila could play a key role for the Tigers this year, providing offense from a position where they could sorely use it. He is a distinct part of the organization's future, and he should be part of the core group of players that will have a chance to win regularly in Detroit.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.