Thursday, January 27, 2011

2011 Season Preview: Catchers

Alex Avila and newcomer Victor Martinez will be the primary catching duo for the Tigers in 2011. At the time of this evaluation, Manager Jim Leyland says that OF Don Kelly will work out in spring training to be the team’s 3rd catcher as needed this season.

Alex Avila- after spending 2008 and most of 2009, in the minors, the son of Detroit’s Vice President, Assistant General Manager Al Avila, the 5th round draft choice out of the University of Alabama, took over the primary catching duties with Detroit in 2010, appearing in a career high 104 games, with 7 HR, 31 RBI and a .228 Batting average.

The soon-to-be 24 year-old right handed hitting catcher hit .280 in 151 minor league games, so his less than .230 batting average last year, was a disappointment to the Tigers. According to a recent article in the Detroit News, Avila says he’s been working hard to improve his conditioning, footwork and hitting consistency.

Avila’s goal for the 2011 season is to be prepared to take a physical beating his position demands, and to do a better job transitioning from “offense to defense, and vice-versa during the games”.

Avila will be working with the newly acquired Victor Martinez, who has caught in 827 games over the course of his career, to refine his catching and offensive skills, as he continues his role as the Tigers “catcher of the future”.

Victor Martinez- the 32-year-old, 4-time All-Star, signed with Detroit as a Free Agent in November, after spending one and a half seasons in Boston with the Red Sox. Martinez started his career in Cleveland before being traded to Boston in a salary dump, move by the Tribe.

General Manager Dave Dombrowski and Manager Jim Leyland envision that Martinez will serve as Detroit’s primary DH, while spelling Avila at Catcher, and Miguel Cabrera at 1st base, this season.

ESPN had Martinez ranked as the 4th best Free Agent heading into the off-season this year, and Dombrowski signed him to a 4-year $50 million contract that will expire at the end of the 2014 season. Martinez brings a .300 batting average and 131 career home runs to Detroit, where he has hit 4 home runs for his career. From 2004 to 2010, Martinez has hit for an average of 18 HR’s a year and hit for a .300 average, which will help improve the Tigers offense, which finished 8th in the American League in 2010, scoring 751 runs.

Bottom Line: Catcher should be a strong suit for the Tigers in 2011, if Avila can hit .250 with 10 HR’s and provide decent defense, and Martinez hits .300 with 15 HR’s and 85 RBI’s. Nobody else in the American League has that kind of offense from the Catcher position, including Minnesota with former AL-MVP, Joe Mauer.

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