Welcome to the second edition of this column. Like before, using a random number generator and the list of pitchers used at the minor league level by the Braves, I came up with a random prospect. Basic idea is that most sites will go over the big stars, but what about the sleeper guys? The never-will-be guys? The minor league veterans? That’s the purpose of this column. In full disclosure, this was the third guy randomly chosen. The first was a guy in the Dominican League and I’ll shy away from those guys for the most part. The second was a utility player who pitched an inning. Finally, random.org gave me number “1” and that was today’s random prospect.
Say hello to Luis Avilan, a Venezuelan southpaw who the Braves signed in August of 2005 as a 16 year-old. Avilan has slowly made his way up the system since that contract was signed. I don’t have too much information on whether or not he was a semi-big international signing for the Braves or not, though they must have thought he had some potential to bring him into the fold less than a month after his sweet sixteen.
Avilan began his professional career with two seasons in the Dominican Summer League. His first season in 2006 was fairly average. He pitched in 12 games, started eight of them, and was near the top five on the team in most counting statistics while posting a 3.29 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP. Hits were a problem. He displayed solid control, though. The next season, Avilan began to display a pretty good arm. He took the ball 14 times, all but one as a starter, and formed a damn good top of the staff with Randall Delgado and Dimasther Delgado. Avilan led the team in wins, innings, and finished behind the lesser known Delgado in K’s. His ERA was lowered to 2.44, though it’s worth stating that was the worst ERA of the five main starters the club used. His 1.00 WHIP was good for second among those five starters, though.
Avilan was moved stateside to begin the next chapter of his career. As an 18 year-old, he finished 0-3 in ten games with four starts, but his numbers were decent. He led the team in K’s, striking out a career best 11.5 K/9. His 1.20 WHIP was better than Dimasther Delgado, who struggled with the GCL Braves. Atlanta felt he was good for another promotion, this time to Danville to open 2009. Similar results were found. He often didn’t start the game (3 GS in 14 G), but he was typically good at getting a couple of innings in with little damage. He finished with a 3.05 ERA, a 1.10 WHIP, and a career-low 2.00 K/BB ratio. Avilan was mostly a bullpen guy because people like
Brett Oberholtzer, Chris Masters, and that Julio Teheran guy were around.
Finished with rookie-league ball, Avilan went to Rome in 2010. For the first time, Avilan was used entirely as a reliever. The results were solid with Avilan getting promoted after just ten games to Myrtle Beach. He finished the year with the Pelicans, posting a 3.54 ERA in 41 games overall between the two stops. He led the Pelicans in saves with nine. His WHIP was a four-year high at 1.22 while his K rate fell for the third consecutive year to 7.6 K/9.
Continuing to roll, Avilan spent last season in Mississippi where, for the first time since 2006 as a 16 year-old, Avilan gave up over a hit an inning. He set a new high in innings by reaching the century mark for the first time while starting 13 of his 36 games, but his WHIP ballooned to 1.40. He gave up ten gopher balls and his K rate tied his career-low with 6.6 K/9. For the first time, Avilan seemed to regress. However, according to this blogger, it was the move from the pen to the rotation that got Avilan going.
Regardless, the Braves weren’t about to let his left-hand arm get away and added Avilan to the 40 man roster after the season. Avilan went to spring training with an outside shot of working his way into the mix and caught the eye of Fredi Gonzalez. However, Avilan was demoted back to Mississippi to open this year.
The results have been about in line with last year. His ERA is much better at 3.17, but his FIP is almost exactly the same (4.30 this year, 4.31 last year). The K’s are back to some degree and he’s inducing some more groundballs than he did last year, but there’s little in the numbers to think Avilan is again putting his name into the hat for an opportunity, which is a shame considering how the Braves bullpen could really use an arm like his if he was getting similar results to his play at A-ball. There is some potential here. Just hoping it comes out.