AL Central Rankings: Who has the top catcher in the division?

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5. Alex Avila (Detroit Tigers)

Sep 22, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila (13) throws out Chicago White Sox right fielder Avisail Garcia (not pictured) on a ground ball by Jordan Danks (not pictured) in the ninth inning at Comerica Park. Chicago won 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

A look at last season:

Alex Avila regressed a bit last season compared to his 2013 campaign. The Tigers catcher batted .218 last season with 44 runs, 22 doubles, and 11 home runs in 457 plate appearances. Those stats, along with 61 walks (17 fewer than the season before) led to 47 RBIs.

Those numbers aren’t great, but behind the plate, Avila, a Gold Glove award finalist, has a .995 fielding percentage with just five errors in 112 games. Avila did have a 2.0 WAR (wins above replacement) and a RAR (runs above replacement level) of 18 last season.

In a article by Detroit Free Press reporter Drew Sharp, it says Avila may bat second by default:

"“His batting average has gotten progressively worse in each season since his All-Star selection in 2011. He strikes out too much. He doesn’t run the bases well enough to score from first base on a double. And his issues with concussions calls into question Avila’s ability to even stay on the field.”"

The article went on to talk about how Avila has a career .358 on-base percentage against right-handers, making that his saving grace to bat second in the Tigers’ batting order this upcoming season.

Aug 19, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila (13) at bat against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Avila’s role with the Tigers is one to keep track of for AL Central foes, because if he is able to get back to his All-Star form of 2011, he could be a dangerous weapon for the club as their No. 2 batter.

2015 Baseball Prospectus Projections:

The Baseball Prospectus publication sees a nice improvement from Avila this season, batting 23 points higher than last season at .241 with a .339 on-base percentage and .387 slugging percentage, both also better than last season.

There is also a projection where Avila will hit one fewer home run (10) and fewer doubles (19), but score more runs (47) and again have fewer walks (53) compared to his ’14 season with the reigning AL Central champions.

BP says of Avila: “He has defense-first-catcher hitting skills, with okay power, terrible contact and a nice walk rate.”

They said it:

A article by Chris Lott has a quote from Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, saying about Avila being the No. 2 batter:

"“I’m seriously considering it. I wouldn’t say that in any way am I locked into it. But it’s legitimately on the table as a possibility.”"

Next: No. 4: Tyler Flowers

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