Two years ago, Alex Avila, the Detroit Tigers‘ left-handed hitting catcher, was coming off of a breakout season in which he hit .295 with 19 home runs and 82 RBI. Avila was also the starting catcher for the American League in the 2011 All-Star Game and was given a Silver Slugger award at the end of the season for his stellar performance at the plate. At the time, it appeared that the Tigers were going to have a perennial All-Star and one of the top catchers in MLB — on both sides of the ball — for many years to come. However, in the subsequent two seasons, Avila has scarcely resembled the player that he was in 2011 due in part to the fact that he has been plagued by a series of injuries. He needs to stay healthy and remedy that fact in 2014.
Although the Prince Fielder trade was a good move, the departure of Fielder left the Tigers bereft of a left-handed power threat. Sure, switch-hitting Victor Martinez is the epitome of a professional hitter, but he is not a home run hitter per se. The Tigers have had several opportunities to add an extra left-handed bat this offseason by signing free agents such as Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Curtis Granderson, and Carlos Beltran, but they passed on all of them and it now appears that the Tigers will not be pursuing Shin-Soo Choo either. Therefore, the Tigers are going to need Avila to step up to the plate in 2014 and be the type of hitter everyone knows he is capable of being. If Avila can once again get his batting average into the .280-.290 range, approach 20 home runs, and drive in 80-90 runs he will be the solid left-handed bat that the Tigers desperately need.
There are already so many uncertainties regarding the Tigers’ lineup. The issue of whether or not Nick Castellanos is ready to take over at third base remains to be seen, everyone is wondering if Torii Hunter (who will turn 39 next summer) will be able to duplicate the success he had in 2013, Ian Kinsler and Austin Jackson are not coming off of their strongest seasons, and Jose Iglesias will likely only bring a Rey Ordonez style bat to the bottom of the Tigers’ lineup. The Tigers are going to need 2014 to be 2011 redux for Alex Avila.