The Detroit Tigers lost their best left-handed offensive producer when Prince Fielder was traded to the Texas Rangers in the offseason, and they’re hoping catcher Alex Avila can have a season like he did in 2011 to make up for it. However, he’s not off to a great start after racking up 20 strikeouts in 41 at-bats in spring training. Avila has shown flashes of being a great power-hitting, left-handed catcher, but it comes with a caveat.
Avila had a .227 batting average in 2013 and missed 60 games due to a couple different injuries. His single season strikeout rate of 29.6 percent last year was the highest of his career. In 58 games prior to the All-Star break last season, he had a .177 batting average, but rebounded with a much better second half. The Tigers gave him a one-year deal in the offseason hoping he might continue the trend, but it hasn’t gone as planned in the early going of 2014.
Even when he was at his best offensively in 2011, strikeouts were still an issue for Avila. He had 131 strikeouts in 551 plate appearances, good for a 23.8 percent strikeout rate. For the sake of comparison, Adam Dunn has a 28.4 percent career strikeout rate with just under 400 home runs more to show for it.
The bottom line is that Avila is likely going to continue to strikeout at a high rate, and they should just hope he does the most with the at-bats in which he doesn’t. He has posted a .268/.375/.317 slash line in spring training games this year, so it’s not all bad for the Tigers’ catcher. They’re just going to have to accept that if they want him to bring a more aggressive approach to the plate, it may cost them in the “K” category.