Heading into this season, many Detroit Tigers fans were hoping that 2014 would be Alex Avila‘s strongest season since 2011. However, although it is still very early, Avila has continued to resemble his 2012-13 form as opposed to his impressive 2011 form thus far.
The Tigers are currently very light on left-handed hitting which makes Avila’s struggles all the more troubling. When Prince Fielder was traded to the Texas Rangers last November, it rendered switch-hitting Victor Martinez, Andy Dirks and Avila as the Tigers’ only left-handed hitting starters. The Tigers could have gone after a number of left-handed hitters this winter such as Curtis Granderson, Brian McCann, Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Beltran, Robinson Cano and Jacoby Ellsbury, but they chose not to aggressively pursue any of them.
The Tigers appeared to be comfortable enough with their remaining left-handed hitters and seemed rather optimistic about their futures at the time. Dirks was expected to have a comeback season in 2014, and Martinez and Avila both had very strong second half performances in 2013 as they hit .361 and .303 respectively. However, although Avila did bat .303 in the second half, he only batted .227 on the season and began struggling once again in the 2013 postseason.
Nevertheless, Avila’s solid post All-Star break numbers gave Tigers fans hope that he was headed for a big season in 2014. Avila also had a strong Spring Training campaign this year as he batted .306 with a home run and three doubles through 17 games. But it has been an entirely different story now that the regular season is underway.
Now that Avila is off to a 3-for-23 start with 14 strikeouts and Dirks is on the DL with a back injury, Martinez is the only imposing left-handed hitter in the Tigers’ starting lineup at the moment.
That said, Avila still has the talent and potential to be better. The 27-year-old Avila’s best years should be ahead of him, not behind him. The ability to be a formidable run producer is still in him, and it is time for him to break out of his slump. If the Tigers wish to find success going forward, they are going to need to have more than one threatening left-handed bat on their roster.