Like a lot of fantasy players, I’ll be waiting on drafting a catcher again this year. Catchers and closers are usually where I want to spend my last few picks or dollars, so I need to squeeze as much value out of them as I possibly can, hoping to hit big on a player that could just as likely end up on the wire in a month. There are a number of catchers who fall in this category, but among them is an interesting bounce back candidate in Tigers’ backstop Alex Avila.
Avila went mostly undrafted in 2011 and proceeded to hit .295/.389/.506 with 19 home runs and 82 RBIs in 141 games. If you were one of the savvy owners who picked him up off the wire two years ago you were rewarded with a player who finished the season as a Top 5 catcher in all five offensive categories. He was second only to Miguel Montero in RBIs and Yadier Molina in batting average for the 2011 season.
2012 was a different story however. Knee problems limited him to 116 games and while he still managed to hit 9 home runs, he was a major bust for owners who had suddenly started drafting him in rounds 12 and 13 expecting him to repeat his breakout performance. The .366 BABIP Avila enjoyed in 2011 dipped to .313 in 2012. His average fell to .243 and there was some speculation that 2011 may have been Avila’s career year and a bit lucky at that.
Thanks to a lackluster 2012, Avila finds himself once again in the bargain bin of catchers. I think he has the ability to return to something close to his 2011 numbers. Despite all the other dips in his numbers, his walk rate actually increased in 2012 from 13% to 14% which was second only to Carlos Santana among catchers with a minimum of 400 PA. That makes him a great value in OBP leagues but also shows plate discipline which could bode well for his batting average in traditional 5×5 leagues. He is healthy heading into 2013 and at only 26 years old he still has youth on his side. While it might be a stretch to expect him to slug .506 again, he has the potential to be a source of cheap power, decent average, and RBI opportunities in what is still a great lineup in Detroit.
In deeper mixed leagues Avila is worth a late round flier. I think he will outperform his mixed league ADP this year (ESPN 260, MDC 241) and he’s a great option in AL-only (ADP 136) and 2-catcher leagues. I like him over some other cheaper catchers like Carlos Ruiz, who is dealing with a 25-game suspension and will be 33 this year. I even like him over a batting average drain like J.P. Arencibia, who is going higher in most drafts. Avila is a good bet to bounce back and a great example of why you can wait on catcher once again in your fantasy draft.