Avelino Finding Balance

TAMPA, FL - Abiatal Avelino hasn't had an easy time of it offensively in Tampa this season. His average has been unusually low for him but as he has proven in the past and more recently in the Florida State League, give him some time to make adjustments and find his balance at the plate and the production will follow.

After a strong start to the season in low-A Charleston, including a .301 Average, a .348 on-base percentage and 16 stolen bases [in 20 games] Abiatal was called up to Tampa. While in Charleston, Abiatal, a natural shortstop, put in work at both second and third base base.

Whether or not playing other positions had any effect on him at the palte, since he has been in Tampa [totaling 74 games played] Avelino has struggled for the most part offensively. His average stands at just .241 after hitting just .225 in the month of July.

While he has struggled offensively in Tampa, hitting coach Tommy Slater was never worried.

“He’s a great kid and a hard worker," Slater said. "He spends a lot of time in the batting cages and spends a lot of time working on his craft. He is a 20-year-old kid in a league where the average age is 23. He has been steadily improving with each game and each week. I’ve been impressed by him.”

Avelino has been steadily improving. In fact, his average was a season-low .214 in early July and he's climbed that back up with some hot hitting lately, batting .433 in eight games last week en route to earning Florida State League Player of the Week honors.

Slater notes that while his offense numbers are low overall that he is facing stiffer pitching than he was in low-A, and that he’s not concerned at all. He believes that it is something that Avelino, a third-year pro, will be able to figure out and exploit over time just as he did in his time in low-A Charleston.

“He’s starting to recognize his pitches better, his balance at the plate has been better and his at approach to every at-bat has improved," Slater insisted. "The longer that he’s here [in Tampa] the more used to the pitching that he is going to get. His at-bats are getting much better.”

Avelino has primarily batted either leadoff or in the number two hole [flip-flopping with Tyler Wade] this season, and Slater says that he will stay near the top of the lineup. Slater also says that he doesn’t necessarily care about Avelino developing power right now, instead he wants him to continue getting better keeping his balance at the plate.

“As he continues to get a good strong balanced position at the plate, he’ll start to square up the baseball more frequently. The more frequently you’re squared up, the more often you’re going to drive the ball. Home runs aren’t something that most guys try to do, it’s something that just happens.”

“He has tools,” manager Dave Bialas added. “He can run, steal, and has a good feel for base running. He can play three positions [shortstop, second base, and third base]. He works hard, plays hard, and he’s intense.

"He has a plus arm; he can make good throws from shortstop and third. He is offensively down a little bit, but I see him making it up coming towards the end of the season. He has to make adjustments, but he definitely has the hitting ability.”

Bialas has noted that they are working on Avelino’s base running too. While Avelino has 45 total stolen bases [29 in Tampa], he has been caught 14 times too.

“The times he runs, sometimes he has to learn to wait and run on better counts. He forces it a little bit sometimes when he doesn’t have to," Bialas said. "There are situations in the game where a young players has to make time to know when to go and when not to go.”

Bialas also nods to stronger pitching as a factor to why Avelino hasn’t been hitting the .301 he was in Charleston, and about why he’s not concerned about it.

“We’ve made progress as we’ve moved on. Coming from the South Atlantic League, there’s a little better pitching over here. The pitchers can pick their spots better, get their breaking pitches over, can pitch in and out better, and can mix their pitches better. It is a bit of an adjustment for him, but in the end, I think he’ll be there.”

Avelino, who was in Charleston last season too, didn’t get the promotion to Tampa until 20 games into the season, but says he wasn’t discouraged not getting the call initially to start the season.

“I felt good about going back," Avelino said through the help of a translator. "I had an injury that took time away last season. I had some things I needed to work on. I felt fine heading back to Charleston but I did want to get promoted to Tampa as soon as possible.

“I went out there [in Charleston] and tried to be aggressive at the plate. I worked on hitting and swinging at good pitches. Pitch selection was the biggest thing, and I wanted to keep working hard on keeping my defense where it was at way my focus.”

Avelino says that he feels comfortable playing both second and third base.

“I feel good anywhere [that I’m playing], I feel really sharp there."

The stronger pitching of the Florida State League has been a challenge to adapt to thus, but Avelino thinks that getting more at-bats and seeing more pitches will help get his numbers back to where they were in Charleston, and his recent hot streak is proof positive of that.

“The pitching is the big difference; guys throw better pitches, throw more strikes and better breaking balls. I need to get comfortable seeing more pitches and getting more at-bats. I’m focused on hitting the ball to the middle of the field and swinging at good pitches. Balance is very key for me," Avelino concluded.

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