Tigers Get A Deal with Avila
By: Eli Geha
Recently the Detroit Tigers avoided arbitration with their starting catcher Alex Avila with a $4.35 million guarantee for the upcoming season. The going rate for a catcher currently in the MLB is the same. So, yes, Avila is making the same as the average catcher on a big league roster, but, he is producing more than the average catcher. Avila’s wOBA is one point higher than the average big league catcher at .311 and is 23 points higher with his career wOBA which is .333. For a player with such a low batting average, his on base percentage (.327) is considered to be above average for a catcher. Avila is very valuable in the batter’s box; he sees pitches very well which is evident with his 13.3% walk percentage. He gets on base more than the average catcher and .322 BABIP which is way above MLB and catcher average. This high BABIP does not make me concerned about his extremely high K% (33%). When he puts the ball in play, he hits it hard, and strikeouts are not the worst way to make an out, as he is running up the pitch count and avoiding double plays.
Avila is regarded as one of the better defensive catchers in the game today, his plus five in DRS was above average and his UZR was a solid 6.6 last year. Avila’s caught stealing percentage was the second highest in baseball last year among qualifiers, behind the Yankees McCann. Avila is also considered to be a decent blocker and pitch caller, but some people have criticized his receiving skills as he had a -2.2 runs in the previous year.
Having a WAR of 2.1 last season, Avila was average for catchers and 1.4 WAR behind the league average. If Avila was a free agent this offseason, fangraphs.com has him projected as being worth $11.7 million, $7.35 million higher than the league average. For a guy making only $4.35 million with a 2.1 WAR the Tigers are getting a huge deal on him.
As a big fan of Avila’s swing, he tends to pull the ball more than usual, a consistency I like (and I’m sure Billy Beane as well). Lately he has been working on taking the ball to all fields to beat the shift. He has a good upward swing which is evident with his 25% line drive percentage and has great discipline at the plate. A down side to Avila’s swing is his continued struggle with breaking balls inside, something he is working to improve upon. Seeing the value in him as a player I hope the Tigers decide to resign him after this season. I love the way Alex Avila plays the game, and it would be a mistake if the Tigers didn’t as well.