Mike Aviles has been pleasant surprise at the top of Red Sox lineup

The Red Sox had another horrible start to the season in 2012, going 1-5 on their opening road trip in Detroit and Toronto.  To add injury to insult the Red Sox lost their lead-off hitter Jacoby Ellsbury, the runner-up for the American League M.V.P. last season, on April 13th in the home opener against the Rays.  The Sox won that game but it seemed like they had won a battle yet lost the war with the injury to Ellsbury.  Ellsbury joined fellow outfielder Carl Crawford on the sidelines and left a giant void at the top of the Red Sox lineup.  Manager Bobby Valentine needed to find someone to fill the void and he needed to do it fast.

Aviles has trotted around the bases in April 5 times, once more than he did all of last season

Enter Mike Aviles.  Aviles was traded to the Red Sox at the trading deadline last July for utility infielder Yamaico Navarro.  He was pegged to be a super-utility player who would play both the infield and the outfield for the Sox until they traded Marco Scutaro in February.  The much-maligned trade would give Aviles a chance to start if he could beat out rookie sensation Jose Iglesias in spring training.  Iglesias was seen as the favorite for much of the spring but his hitting had not completely come around so Aviles got the job.  Then Ellsbury gets hurt and Valentine decided to place Aviles in the lead-off role, something that he hadn’t done consistently in his career.  Aviles doesn’t look like the prototypical lead-off hitter.  He’s got decent speed but he’s not a burner like Ellsbury or Crawford.  He has a decent eye but his OBP has regressed every year since his rookie season in 2008.  But Aviles is a hungry player.  He’s eager to prove the people in Kansas City, who gave up on him, wrong.  He’s eager to prove the fans and the media in Boston, who didn’t think he could do the job when Scutaro was traded, wrong.  He’s eager to prove to the people, who thought a rookie who was underdeveloped offensively should start ahead of him, wrong.

Aviles took that opportunity and answered the bell.  He has led off all 15 games that the Sox have played since Ellsbury was injured.  The Sox’ record since then is 9-6.  The Sox’ offense has scored 93 runs in those 15 games.  Aviles himself has had 69 plate appearances in the lead-off spot.  In those 69 at-bats he has compiled a .313 batting average, a .353 on-base percentage and a .625 slugging percentage.  He has hit 5 doubles, 5 home runs, knocked in 14 runs, stolen 3 bases and walked 4 times.  The numbers seem very comparable to Jacoby Ellsbury’s April last season.  In 104 plate appearances Ellsbury hit .266 with a .337 OBP and .468 SLG.  He hit 7 doubles, 4 home runs, knocked in 14, stole 5 bases and walked 9 times.  Ellsbury had 8 more games last April in the lead-off spot than Aviles had this April.  I’m not saying that Aviles is going to have an M.V.P.-type season this year like Ellsbury did last season.  At the very least however it seems as if Ben Cherington and Bobby Valentine have found a diamond in the rough.  Aviles was a nice player stashed away in Kansas City who kept being passed over by a front office who was desperate to drag the franchise out of the doldrums.  The Sox got him for spare parts last season and he has returned everything that the Sox have invested in them and then some in the first month of the season.

Aviles has become a spark plug in the vein of Dustin Pedroia

It’s not surprising that Mike Aviles’ attitude and demeanor is compared to that of Dustin Pedroia’s.  He’s developed a chip on his shoulder and it has grown every time someone questions his ability.  Now you see a confident hitter at the plate every time he steps to bat for the Red Sox.  Aviles’ success in the lead-off spot for the Sox has raised the once inconceivable question – do you keep him in the lead-off spot even when Ellsbury comes back?  It’s a valid question and Ellsbury could simply slide into the #2 spot that Ryan Sweeney currently holds.  That, in turn, gives you a reliable bat towards the bottom of the order in Sweeney.  Of course Ellsbury needs to get healthy first and with Aviles producing the way he has Ellsbury can take his time and make sure that he is 100% before rushing back.

Mike Aviles is the sort of player that the Red Sox have been lacking in recent years.  A hard worker with a chip on his shoulder who wants to win and succeed more than anything else.  I remember Peter Gammons making a quote a few years ago that the Red Sox wanted more Dustin Pedroias and less Manny Ramirezes.  Aviles is the type of guy this team needed and he has delivered for the Sox every step of the way.  A turn-around to a season like the Sox needed to do starts with guys like Aviles and Aviles has been the catalyst for the Sox’ 7-1 record in their last 8 games.  Here’s hoping that Aviles’ hard work and grit continue to pay off at the top of the Red Sox order for the rest of the season.

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About evonsports
30 year old sports enthusiast and aspiring writer from Boston.

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