In just the last three days, Mike Aviles has demonstrated the flexibility her brings to the Cleveland Indians, starting at three different positions. While second baseman Jason Kipnis is hung up on the 15-day disabled list with a strained oblique, Aviles’ role will become even more significant, with the roster varying drastically every day.
The expectations manager Terry Francona bestows on Aviles are unique in that the utility infielder and left fielder needs to prepare for multiple defensive positions while being ready to bat in the two spot or at the bottom of the lineup. So much has been made about how players like Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Giambi and Ryan Raburn cope with their irregular playing time. There are five positions on the field that directly impact Aviles if somebody gets injured or is slumping. This type of adaptability is somewhat lost from today’s game, mirroring the prehistoric era of baseball.
With the help from general manager Chris Antonetti, Francona has built an environment where players like Aviles and Elliot Johnson can coexist as backyard baseball players to fit the needs of a bendable depth chart. This acceptance of jack-of-all-trade type athletes alleviates the blow of injuries over short periods of time.
Playing the part of such a diverse character, the Indians know exactly what to expect statistically from the 33 year old. Over the past three seasons, Aviles has stayed healthy, living in the mid-.250 BA range with a low K percent, putting the ball in play at a superior rate. Aviles’ contact percentages reflect an aggressive approach needed as a pinch hitting, reserve turned starter. In 2014, Aviles has asserted himself, making contact with 97.8 percent of pitches inside the strike zone (88 percent league average) and 83.3 percent out of the zone (68 percent).
The Goon Squad that was established in the midst of the 2013 Tribe playoff hunt, featuring a group of selfless players who serve commendably when called upon, included Aviles, Giambi, Raburn and Yan Gomes. Aviles is the headliner of these values despite having the ability to start on a number of other major league clubs. It’s a luxury to be able to soften the burden of losing an All-Star second basemen with an experienced bat and sure-handed glove at the snap of a finger.