Luis Avilan is one of the few holdovers from last year’s bullpen, but that means very little other than he’s one of the few guys I’ll recognize in Spring Training pictures. That being said, since his name is not Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons, or Julio Teheran (and maybe Alex Wood or Craig Kimbrel), he may not even be a Brave tomorrow. Who knows.
The good: Pretty much the entire 2013 season. Following up a very successful rookie campaign in 2012, Avilan was fantastic for the entire season. He went 5-0 and posted a 1.52 ERA in 65 innings over 75 games. He was reliable, but appearing in nearly 1/2 of your team’s games is a pretty heavy workload. That may have led to…
The bad: Pretty much the entire 2014 season. It was not kind to Avilan. After two great seasons, he struggled through the first half of last season, and his ERA sat at 4.85 after 47 games when he was demoted to AAA on July 19. He was recalled on August 14 but things did not really improve for him. He finished the season with a 4-1 record and 4.57 ERA, giving up 22 runs (all earned) and a .287 opposing batting average in 43.1 innings. His 47 hits and 21 walks led to a rather worrisome 1.57 WHIP. He allowed 2 home runs and recorded 25 strikeouts.
If Avilan can get enough innings in (the Braves have invited 33 pitchers to camp, and there are only but so many innings available) and he has a good Spring Training, and if he is still with the team at the end of it, I’d say there’s a decent chance he makes the Opening Day roster as the second lefty behind James Russell. The Braves did, however, add Josh Outman to the bullpen mix over the winter, so if he has a better spring than Avilan, Avilan may find himself beginning the season up the road in Gwinnett.
If Avilan can put up numbers along the lines of his rookie season, closer to his 2013 than his 2014, he may find himself shipped to a contending team at the trading deadline, since effective lefties don’t exactly grow on trees. While I’m sure the Braves would have traded him this winter or packaged him with someone if the right deal had come along, hanging on to him may net them a greater gain if Roger McDowell can work his magic and help Avilan bounce back. If not, there will still probably be a contending team willing to take a flyer on him simply because he throws with the correct hand.
So what is his 2015 outlook? Numbers-wise, I don’t know. I would not be the least bit surprised if they were better than his 2014 results, nor would I be surprised if they weren’t. Relievers can really be year-to-year. I will be surprised, though, if he is still with the Braves at the end of the season. He’s cheap, left handed, and playing on a team that is not really expected to contend until he gets a little less cheap. If I were him with those factors in place, I probably wouldn’t be buying any real estate in Atlanta any time soon.