Minor League Player Profile: Xavier Avery

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32 games played, 94 at-bats, 21 hits, a single home run: as the complete MLB dossier for a second-round draft pick six full years into his professional career, these numbers underwhelm to say the least. But such has been the journey of Xavier Avery.

Taken 50th overall as an 18-year old out of Cedar Grove High (GA) by the Baltimore Orioles, Avery has so far been one of many exhibits used to show why the Amateur Draft is an imperfect science. Despite only posting average numbers through the lower levels of the minor leagues, he was shepherded along, his numbers finally taking a serious dive at AA in 2010 (.236/.330/.336).

Apr 18, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Baltimore Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette prior to a game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

But by 2012, Avery was on the AAA Norfolk Tides’ roster, having put up just a measly .259 AVG with 4 homers in 2011. Again, he failed to break the .700 OPS with the Tides, but for a 2012 Baltimore team that possessed little outfield depth, he was called up for multiple stints with the O’s.

A promising start to his big league career in mid-May quickly turned sour, and he was back in Norfolk before the end of the month. Later call-ups in June-July and September provided similar results: a failure-ridden .223/.305/.340 line.

A change of strategy from GM Dan Duquette, however, saw Avery at AA Bowie to start the year. After showing that he could handle Eastern League pitching by keeping a .300 AVG for seven weeks, he got another chance with the Tides.

But the second time around, Avery’s AAA production was even worse, and he flirted with the Mendoza line until August, when Duquette’s patience finally came to an end: Baltimore was probably all too happy to dump what was now a reclamation project on Seattle at the 2013 Waiver Deadline in exchange for Michael Morse, a player who they hoped could be a valuable addition to a Wild Card contender despite his horrendous recent form with the Mariners.

But though Morse hit a laughable .103 in September with the O’s, Avery’s change of scenery may have been a turning point.

After going 5 for 5 with a double and home run in the second of his three appearances to end the year with the Rainiers, Avery hit the ground running in 2014, becoming a singles machine who used another five-hit performance in early May to propel his average above .300.

Though a slowdown was inevitable, it never came to the extent of previous years, as Avery’s AVG never dropped more than a couple points below .270. His final 2014 numbers: .275/.344/.413, 10 HR, 21 2B, a far cry from Duquette’s lost cause.

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Expect a 25-year old Avery to report to 2015 Spring Training hungry to prove he in fact does belong in the big leagues. If Michael Saunders is traded and Jack Zduriencik fails to find a competent replacement, he would have a fighter’s chance against the likes of Stefen Romero, Endy Chavez, and James Jones for an Opening Day roster spot.

Whether Xavier Avery will ever live up the hype that so enticed Baltimore in 2008 will not be known for years. But with an organization desperate for any offensive production, he should at some point get his chance. We just need to hope that the M’s show the patience that Baltimore did not. The patience that, for a minor leaguer yet to enter his prime years, could make all the difference between just another burnout and a quality piece on a playoff-caliber team.

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