In December, the Boston Red Sox traded Jed Lowrie to the Houston Astros, which presumably increased the value of Jed Lowrie, but also cemented Marco Scutaro as the team’s shortstop for 2012. Draft sheets were dutifully updated.
Rather inexplicably, the Red Sox recently traded said cemented shortstop to the Colorado Rockies which left a few scratching their heads and scouring Twitter to see if there was another hand to be played. After all, that left the Red Sox without a real natural shortstop and according to The Fielding Bible, shortstops are important.
Enter Mike Aviles.
The immediate speculation was some kind of platoon between Aviles and Nick Punto, which might leave a lot to be desired in Boston, but it presents a tantalizing opportunity to pounce from a fantasy baseball angle. Looking objectively at the two, they are the yin and the yang of utility infielders. Where Punto is clearly superior defensively, he produces with the bat like it’s one of those foot long souvenir splinters. Aviles has always hit pretty well — and sometimes very well — but isn’t known for his defensive abilities, although he has held his own at the six in the past. Based on that crude cursory glance, I’d have to put my money on Aviles getting the majority of starts at shortstop until he proves his glove totally incapable.
Should Aviles be named the “starter” — and for fantasy purposes, that probably means to be on the field no fewer than five times a week — you should take notice.
Aviles will be 31 when the 2012 season starts and yet he’s never played in more than 110 games — some of that due to team decisions and some of that due to injury. He’s known for swinging at everything but making a lot of contact, and he possesses decent pop. He’s reached double digit home runs just once as a major leaguer, but again, that was playing about two-thirds of a full season.
The tempting part is the promise of regular playing time. Last season, in just 286 at-bats, Avlies managed seven home runs and 14 stolen bases, actually experiencing miserable batted-ball luck in Kansas City somewhat balanced out by some good fortune upon arrival in Boston, where he hit .317/.340/.436 in a little over 100 plate appearances.
Then there’s the allure of ballpark fit. Aviles is happiest when he’s pulling the ball, and it just so happens that Fenway is happy to deliver a lot of doubles to right handed pull hitters due to something about a big wall in left. Aviles is a career .368/.366/.638 pull hitter, hitting nearly 90% of his home runs to left field, and it wouldn’t take too much of an imagination to see him bouncing balls off the monster routinely in 2012.
A shortstop with the potential to hit for average and provide double digit home runs and stolen bases is pretty valuable. If he can find 500 plate appearances in 2012, Mike Aviles could be a pretty attractive — and sneaky — pick in your looming fantasy draft.
Keep an eye on the shortstop situation in Boston. While they almost certainly are kicking the tires on a flashier option at shortstop, the current budget might not allow for it, which might open the door for Aviles to become a regular option once again.