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Remembering Mike Aviles

Mike Aviles was a product of the bad old days of the Royals farm system, a no-bonus pick from a cold-weather college who was a long shot to ever make the Majors. His odds got longer when a new regime came in, naturally, and even more so when everything about Aviles was antithetical to what the new regime (possibly rightly) believed in.

Still, he kept hitting and hitting and after, ohh, three effing years of historically bad hitting by Tony Pena Jr., Aviles finally got a shot. In this case, Aviles was the internet/stats geeks/bloggers/prospect nerd hero who actually hit the ground running after tearing up AAA.

As a rookie in 2008, Aviles hit an astounding .325/.354/.480. Given that this offensive performance came with good defense at shortstop, Aviles was performing at an MVP level. According to fWAR he was a 4.4 win player, 3.7 in brWAR. Just incredible. While Evan Longoria was a no-doubt American League ROY that season, you could make a serious argument that Aviles was the better player in 2008.

Even though he was plainly not an organizational favorite, the world opened before Aviles at the start of 2009, opened before him like the shell of Venus or somesuch. But this is a tragedy rather than an As Told To autobiography, so the opportunity was not to be realized. Aviles struggled with an elbow injury, attempted to play through it, was bad, and eventually needed Tommy John surgery. By all accounts, the organization was furious about this. (Which is odd and hypocritical, but what isn't from the Royals' FO?) The clam shell had closed.

Still, Aviles battled his way back, earning eventual playing time with the bad 2010 Royals. He was bad initially, but just as the vultures were circling, he hit .400 in September, which probably saved his career.

But 2011 was a rough year. Aviles made a number of prominent errors to begin the season and found himself without an obvious play behind favored parties such as Escobar, Getz, Betemit, and soon Mike Moustakas. He was eventually demoted, said he was unhappy about it, and thus earned the opprobrium of the vocal set of Aviles-haters among Royals fans.

Odd thing was, Aviles was a Moore player in many ways. He was aggressive as hell at the plate and his best assets were batting average skill and splashes of power. I've refrained from posting too many numbers in this post, because in some ways they've never told the entire story. He was the Baird-era ghost who exposed the deficiencies of the Moore regime in 2008, and the Baird-era ghost who exposed the deficiencies of the Baird-era in 2009 and 2010. Kinda. Overall, he was just a tremendously mismanaged guy. The Royals waited way too long to promote him, mishandled (or allowed him to mishandle, or baited him into mishandle) his injury in 2009 and then semi-buried him in 2010 and 2011 for a lesser player.

In his newsletter, Joe Sheehan made the comparison to Tony Graffanino, who was traded from KC to Boston at age 33 in 2005. As a Red Sox, Tony G had the 50 games of his life down the stretch with Boston, hitting .300 with power. Weirdly, Graffanino then re-signed with the Royals, who then traded him to Milwaukee in 2006 for Jorge de la Rosa, in one of Dayton's first trades. I wouldn't expect a repeat of that scenario.