Coming into the year, no one expected much from Alex Avila. Here are a variety of projections for Avila prior to the season:
Well Avila has exceeded all of those projections this year and has been one of the best catchers in the league. He is currently hitting .304/.397/.529 with 16 homeruns, 63 RBI, and an ISO of .226. He has done very well and was named the American League starting catcher in the All-Star game.
In his prior two seasons, Avila never showed these offensive numbers. He was a good defender with about average numbers for a catcher. In 2010 he his .228/.316/.340 with 7 homeruns in 333 plate appearances. Things have really taken off for Avila this year and I believe he is the best catcher in the league.
When discussing the best catcher in the league, over the last few years, the names brought up are Joe Mauer and Brian McCann. Mauer has struggled to stay healthy this year and is posting career lows across his triple slash line. He his hitting .287/.347/.349 with only one homerun in 285 plate appearances. Brian McCann has been very good this year hitting .292/.365/.512 with 22 homeruns in 419 plate appearances but I think Avila is just a slight step ahead of McCann.
Avila leads all catchers in WAR with 4.9 which is 1.1 wins better than the second place McCann. His triple slash line, ISO, and wOBA lead all catchers as well. He is second amongst catchers in BB% too. The part of Avila’s game that really puts him over the top is his OBP. He has a .397 OBP which is 10th best in the entire majors. His offensive numbers are great, and the best amongst all catchers but we cannot ignore Avila’s defense as well. Avila leads the league in runners thrown out attempting to steal with 36. He has allowed very few past balls and has a very good .995 fielding percentage.
Avila is only 24 and is already posting great numbers. He looks to be a very important piece of the Tigers 2011 run into the playoffs. ZiPS project him to finish the year at .296/.388/.513 with 19 homeruns and 74 RBI.