Name: Abiatal Avelino
DOB: February 14, 1995
Batting and Power. With advanced pitch recognition, above average bat speed, repeatable swing path and mechanics, and with an innate ability to be patient but yet aggressive at the same time, Avelino has everything in place to be a very good hitter for average someday. Throw in a veteran-like presence at the plate and approach to his at-bats, one that allows the game to come to him and not press too much at the plate, he shows a rare combination of physical and mental ability for such a young hitter. He rarely tries to do too much, takes what the pitchers give him, and uses the whole field when he hits. If there's one downside to his hitting it is the lack of natural loft in his swing and as a result he'll hit a few more balls into the ground than most. That does take away some of his natural long-term average big league power potential from a home run standpoint but it also puts the opposing defense on its collective heals as he puts a lot of balls in play. Still, even without the loft he can still hit a lot of line-drives all over the field. He most likely won't be a big home run hitter but with enormous and strong hands, and a strong frame with room to fill out even more as he continues to get older, he does have the potential to be a solid double-digit home run threat and high extra-base hit hitter when it's all said and done.
Base Running and Speed. Avelino is not nearly as fast as his lofty 54 stolen base total in 2015 would suggest. More of an above average runner speed-wise, he is able to play his running game up to a plus level with his ultra-aggressive running style and natural baseball instincts. In fact, few exhibit his smarts on the base paths running station to station and even fewer show the 'no fear' approach he employs when swiping bags. Possessing an almost closer-like mentality, he doesn't allow getting gunned down to affect him mentally; he simply goes out the next time and takes what he believes is rightfully his [i.e. the next base]. He has true high-impact running ability and most of it is predicated on his mental approach.
Defense. Just like his hitting and base running, Avelino has all of the physical tools to be a real standout defensively; above average range, plus arm strength, and soft hands. However, just like his hitting and base running, it's his high level of intelligence and innate feel for the game that allows the physical tools to flourish. He simply knows how to make plays. He is a smooth defender, one who doesn't force the issue, and the confidence he exudes on the field is truly palpable. An above average, borderline plus defensive shortstop, he has also begun playing second base and has shown the same kind of defensive prowess there, and even has filled in admirably at third base a few times too [he certainly has the arm strength to play there]. He has Gold Glove caliber defensive potential at two middle infield spots and the versatility to play a couple of other spots as well.
Projection. Avelino's quick and seamless transition to second base [where his arm is second to none] as well as his already big league defensive game at shortstop [he not only can fill in at third base well too but has the wheels to play centerfield as well if need be] gives him the floor of a big league reserve player at minimum and he's still just 20 years old. However, given his natural feel for hitting, his high-impact running potential on the base paths, and what could eventually wind up being average big league power if the loft ever comes, his ceiling is so much more. He's the kind of difference-maker in all phases of the game that would simply be wasted sitting on the bench. Even if he were to reach the big leagues in a reserve capacity initially, sooner or later a manager is going to want to get him into the game and in the lineup everyday, and a lot of it has to do with his impeccable makeup and desire; think Derek Jeter-like intangibles. Staying healthy is going to be key as he not only has tangible big league starting potential at more than one position but an even higher ceiling.
ETA. 2018. Avelino can get to the big leagues just as quickly as the Yankees want him there. We initially had him tabbed for an eventual 2017 big league arrival but with Didi Gregorius firmly established at shortstop and the recent trade for Starlin Castro to play second base [both of whom will be with the team for a while] it can allow the Yankees to pump the brakes on Avelino's track. He's ready to tackle Double-A Trenton in 2016 and with no real glaring weaknesses in his game he should be primed for the big leagues no later than two years after.