2015 Statistics: 123 G, .260/.314/.334, 2 HR, 54 SB, 14.7 K% between Low-A and High-A
2015 Level/Roster Status: High-A/Non-40
Before the days of Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Nomar Garciaparra, middle infielders were expected to be slap-hitting, slick-fielding speed demons. At just 20 years old, Abiatal Avelino is a blast from the past. He was born in San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic, a town also known as "The Cradle of Shortstops" due to the high volume of well-known baseball players from the area.
Avelino tore through the rookie-level leagues, making consistent contact and proving to be a menace on the basepaths. However, he hit his first major road block in 2014, playing just 61 games due to injury. His strikeout rate also crept up to 18.2% at Low-A Charleston, a troubling sign considering the fact that making consistent contact should theoretically be his calling card. As was the case even when he was rolling in rookie ball, he didn't show very much power in 2014, relying primarily on speed to differentiate himself.
This year, Avelino played 20 games in Charleston, hitting over .300 with 16 stolen bases. Because of his hot start, he was bumped up to High-A Tampa. Again, he struggled to hit for any power in Tampa, and his BABIP took a hit, giving him a .252/.309/.321 slash line over 103 games, good for a wRC+ of 95. On a more positive note, he managed to swipe 38 bags while getting caught 15 times.
Unfortunately for Avelino, he was moved around the infield quite a bit in 2015. Across two levels, he actually played at second base more than he did at shortstop with a few games at third for good measure. Avelino's lack of power does not bode well for his chances as a third baseman going forward, but he still fits the profile of a decent middle infielder given a reasonable improvement in the hitting department. With shortstop prospect Jorge Mateo going full speed ahead and 30th overall pick Kyle Holder not far behind, Avelino's time at shortstop could be over soon.
Ultimately, Avelino's future will be decided by how much he can progress as a hitter. A preseason scouting report from FanGraphs analyst Kiley McDaniel didn't peg Avelino as having a projectable build, and he is listed at 5'11" and 186 pounds. His raw power probably won't change, but hopefully there is some minor tweak that he can make in his swing mechanics to get more lift. If Avelino can learn to drive the ball, he will also drive his career to the next level.