Avila’s Hot Start Gives Tigers Depth At Catcher

Whether you look at home runs (6) and RBI (23) or wins above replacement (1.0) and wOBA (.387) you’ll see Alex Avila’s name all over early season leaderboards. He has thrown out 12 of 33 would-be base stealers so far this year (36%) and the most recent of his six home runs came when he was navigating Justin Verlander through nine no-hit innings on Saturday.

“That was definitely nice. It’s the best of both worlds,” Avila told MLBTR this weekend. “I was joking with Justin that four of my six home runs are when he’s pitching. It seems that when he’s pitching, I’m going to hit one out.”


A 5th round pick in 2008, Avila is the son of Tigers assistant GM Al Avila. He hit .228/.316/.340 and threw out 32% of would-be base stealers as Detroit's primary catcher in 2010. This year, he’s feeling more comfortable as a hitter and as a defender.

“When you first come up, there’s always an adjustment period, a time when you’ve got to learn and figure out how to not only catch, but hit in the big leagues and the experience definitely helps,” Avila said. “You learn more about yourself and the league and make adjustments from there.”

The Tigers aren’t expecting Avila to continue at his current 28-homer pace, but the front office believes he can continue to be a valuable everyday catcher – and his father’s not the only one who thinks so.

“He has a nice left-handed swing,” GM Dave Dombrowski said. “We think he can hit.”

Avila’s new teammate, Victor Martinez, is one of baseball’s best hitting catchers, having reached the 20-homer plateau five times in the past seven seasons. Though the Tigers don’t plan on asking Martinez to catch more than a couple times per week, he has still helped Avila develop as a backstop.

“Absolutely,” Avila said. “Victor has helped me a ton with both aspects of my game. He’s such a positive person and generous with his time. He’s just fantastic.”

It's still too early to assume the 24-year-old Avila will continue hitting at this rate. But at this point, it appears that the Tigers have a pair of quality catchers thanks to his development.

Photo courtesy Icon SMI.

27 Responses to Avila’s Hot Start Gives Tigers Depth At Catcher Leave a Reply

  1. I am a big fan of some of the other speculation articles, but I have to ask: What is the point of this one? This seems much more ESPN than MLBTR.


    • threeeds 4 years ago

      Perhaps they were speculating that the Tigers may be looking at a mid-season acquisition for catcher if Avila didn’t perform all that well, I’m not sure. I felt the same way about the Verlander article, though, and I’m a Tigers fan. It doesn’t really fit with the website.

  2. bluejaysstatsgeek 4 years ago

    How many 24-year-olds have caught 2 no hitters? Of course, I’m counting Galarraga’s 28-AB perfect game. I’m not ready to dismiss the catcher’s role in pitchers’ success. While I have no complaints about Arencibia, Avila is one backstop I covet.

    • JacksTigers 4 years ago

      I have one compaint about Arencibia, I wish he would have swung and missed in the eighth on Saturday. Phew, it feels good to get that off of my chest.

      • Lunchbox45 4 years ago

        lol remarkably, as a Jays fan I feel the EXACT same way.

        Game was out of reach, either get a hit or make an out.

        • InLeylandWeTrust 4 years ago

          At the last AB of the game with Davis at the plate and Jays fans were on their feet, was that to cheer on Verlander, or more rooting for a hit? If it was the former, big props to Jays fans.

          • Sniderlover 4 years ago

            It seems they were rooting for Verlander no hitter. I’d say an inning before that they were rooting for a perfect game. Game was out of reach so why not see some history, amirite?

          • Lunchbox45 4 years ago

            As snider said…cheering for verlander.. He also got a standing O after

          • tycobb 4 years ago

            On the Canadian Sportsnet feed, Jays broadcaster Buck Martnez must of said perfect game or no hitter 50 times. You could tell they were trying to jinx it….it was pretty funny. And at one point Martenez was calling Verlander Dustin went onto call Comerica Park, Comerica Field..lol.

    • Lunchbox45 4 years ago

      If you like Arencibia, wait til Perez and D’arnaud work their way up

  3. JacksTigers 4 years ago

    Maybe there is a little bit of upside with daddy’s little boy.

    • TartanElk 4 years ago

      I don’t understand the bad rap about Avila when it comes to his dad. I get the whole nepotism angle, but last year his problem was offensively. His strikeout rate was abysmal, but the BB rate was better than you’d expect from him. The defense was what saved him, after all, he was infinitely better than Laird.

      • JacksTigers 4 years ago

        Personally, I prefered the man who is banned from going to Phoenix Suns games. But they both sucked.

        • TartanElk 4 years ago

          Woah, woah, woah. A Tigers fan who prefers Laird? How and why? And are you on any drugs you’re willing to share?

          I’m not knocking your choice, we all have our preferences people don’t understand, Timo Perez for me. I just would’ve rather had Dusty Ryan or Matt Treanor than Laird.

          • JacksTigers 4 years ago

            Trust me when I say that Laird, while he couldn’t hit the broad side, or any side for that matter, of a barn, he was in the top 5 defensive catchers in the league. He was also a very good sacrafice bunter when need be.

          • Pawsdeep 4 years ago

            Up until this year, the tigers couldn’t bunt or field one with a high schoolers competence, thus making him totally useless in a leyland lineup.

      • Couldnt of Said it Better..Better Than LAIRD..I would of given up on the tig’s forever if they had brought him back

  4. Matt K 4 years ago

    Laird is suitable as a NL backup, which coincidentally is where he is now… Avila should’ve had more PT last year, offensive struggles be damned.

  5. Pawsdeep 4 years ago

    Not only has avilla caught the no no and gallaraggas perfecto, but he has called both games without a full season of playing everyday under his belt. On top of that, if you have seen how he handles the tigers staff, he has been a wonderful suprise so far this year. he is showing a poise that is pretty rare from a kid with such little playing time. His bat has been exactly what the scouts said he could do. He’s a great young backstop.

    Oh, and let’s not forget he never caught a game until the tigers drafted him. He played the infield his entire college career and did start catching until he was in the minors. I really think this kid has a great future ahead of him.

  6. METfan201 4 years ago

    I dont see why Martinez cant catch

    • Pawsdeep 4 years ago

      He can and does. But not needed with avilla

      • METfan201 4 years ago

        Yeah but if they become in serious contention and need help elsewhere like 3B lets say and the Mets go into a firesale i think id like an avila in a Wright Deal. Or if Peralta doesnt produce or whereever, i mean like the article says catching depth . Its very impportant around these days

        • Pawsdeep 4 years ago

          Avilla is the catcher of the future. He’s not going anywhere.

          They signed vmart to give Alex a day off here and there. The organization made it no secret that vmart is in Detroit to be a DH as to give people breathers, that’s it.

          You did hit it on the head though—3B is an issue. I would imagine they would just slide peralta to third though and go after a longterm SS. Good ol Jhonny Boy seems to have found his stride in Detroit and he looks like the he did early in the Cleveland so far this year.

          • METfan201 4 years ago

            Haha fine then Reyes for Avila

  7. I have met Alex at least 3 times. Always has been a geuine person and good with the little tiger fans. He helps Inge take on the role of fan favorite among all tiger fans after curtis granderson left. Not only does he do that, but he’s putting up the stat’s to prove he’s a good ball player. Catcher is not any easy position to play, and their are probably a dozen teams wishing they had an avila type catcher. Give the young KID the credit he deserves

  8. ugen64 4 years ago

    it’s funny, I remember watching the Tigers / Orioles series early in the year and there was a lot of angst about how he was constantly letting balls in the dirt get by him. specifically, there was one Rick Porcello curveball that got by him (scored as a “wild pitch”) and allowed a run to score. the announcer’s response was something like this: “this is why a catcher like Matt Wieters is so valuable, he actually knows how to block balls behind the plate”).

    has he made a miraculous improvement over the past month, or is this just a case of his awesome hitting making fans forget about defensive shortcomings?

    • Pawsdeep 4 years ago

      Hes just improving on everything….offense, defense, throwing out runners, calling the game, etc.

      It took him a bit early this year but he is really coming around.

      I think another part of why people were picking on his catching abilities was his lack of offense to start the year out…fans were just being nit-picky.

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