Washington will be the sixth major league team for Avila, who will turn 34 on Friday. Most of Avila’s career has been spent in Detroit, which Jon Heyman of MLB Network notes vied for a reunion this offseason, but he was a member of the Twins last season. Avila has typically been known for logging low batting averages and high on-base percentages, and he did just that in Minnesota, with which he batted .184/.355/.286 with one home run in 62 plate appearances. The total lack of power was out of the norm for Avila, who has posted a .394 slugging percentage and swatted 104 homers across 3,527 trips to the plate in the majors.
Most of the damage the left-handed Avila has done on offense has come off righty pitchers, and he should get the majority of his playing time against them in 2021. Avila will complement the Nationals’ starting backstop, Yan Gomes, who bats from the right side. Notably, Gomes has fared much better at the plate versus lefties than righties throughout his career. He and Avila could make up a formidable offensive tandem if they perform the way they usually do offensively.
On the defensive side, Avila had difficulty as a pitch framer last season, ranking in Statcast’s 31st percentile in that category. However, Avila has never had much trouble throwing out would-be base stealers. His lifetime 30 percent caught-stealing rate checks in a few points above the league average. As Jessica Camerato of MLB.com points out, Avila will catch past teammates in Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin and Jon Lester in D.C.