Monday, March 1, 2010

Royals 2010 Wild Cards- No. 4 Mike Aviles

Shortstop is a position that this team has struggled to fill in the last decade. There was one shining beacon of hope in 2008 when Mike Aviles finally got called up to the big leagues. We all know his story. A Baird era draftee, signed out of college in the 789,105th round. Given a bus ticket and a thousand bucks as a signing bonus and 7 years later, he was a few dozen at bats away from finishing in the top 5 in the AL batting title race while playing top notch defense at short. Last year was a disappointment for Mike. He was injured, some say mistreated by Royals' trainers and beaten up from the World Baseball Disast...I mean Classic. Some people thought that Aviles career not only as a Royal, but as a major leaguer, was over. After a Tommy John surgery and lengthy DL stint, Aviles is finally back in Royal Blue.

Still a month or two from being 100%, Aviles has impressed so far in early camp, causing some club officials to say that he is the most defensively sound infielder the Royals have on their roster. A pleasant report for a fanbase and organization that is reeling from one of the worst defensive seasons in club history. There are whispers that Yuniesky Betancourt is still playing his role of a symbiotic Terrell Owens/Tony Pena Jr.

The point is that Aviles can not get healthy quick enough. Trey Hillman has sung Aviles praises in camp and has hinted that he will most likely overtake Yuni's spot once he returns to active duty, barring a miraculous first half from Betancourt.

The hope is that Mike can return to his 2008 form. An offense that is lacking serious pop in the bottom of the order could use an injection like Aviles to boost Royals bats to mediocre status. Even if he doesn't return to form, he has proven that he can hit at the big league level and be an adequate defensive part of this team. Obviously, he probably won't reach his .325 mark, but some say he could be a consistent .300 performer and put up similar numbers to Alberto Callaspo if given regular playing time.

If he can repeat even 80% of what he did in 2008, it will help this team in more ways than one. It will take at bats away from Yuniesky Betancourt and relegate Willie Bloomquist to what he does best, utility status. It will add depth to the team and the AAA level. Once Mike returns to the 25 man roster, either Chris Getz or Betancourt will be optioned to Omaha. Getz has options remaining, but if Betancourt is the one who goes, he can decline the option, forfeit the remainder of his contract and become a free agent, where no one will offer him a big league contract, or he can accept the assignment and get his big league paycheck while trying to fix one of his alleged 5 tools. Essentially, Mike Aviles coming back, no matter how you slice it, makes this team better. Of course, there are no guarantees.

The offense needs a serious injection of power. The defense needs a steady leg in the infield to stand on. The team needs another year like 2008 from Aviles to have any shot at contention. Mike is that kind of player that every team needs, the proverbial "energy guy". I'm not saying he'll be Brooks Robinson at the plate or Buddy Biancalana in the field. But he should be better than the turd pile we ran out there during 2009. You want someone to believe in besides Zack Greinke or Billy Butler in 2010? Look no further than Mike Aviles.

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