As we all know, the Astros have struggled to find a consistent lefty bullpen presence over the past few years. We’ve had major swings with Sipp being outright dominant, or wondering why we paid him and how we could get rid of him. This off-season, there are a few intriguing big names (Britton, Miller) as well quite a few other potential options. Last night, the Phillies decided to Non-Tender Luis Avilan.
Here is the quick recap from MLBTR on Avilan:
”As for Avilan, 29, he’s sure to find another opportunity. The seven-year MLB veteran has thrown 308 2/3 total frames of 3.09 ERA ball, though of course that has come mostly in action against same-handed hitters. Avilan has held opposing righties to a .672 OPS, which is rather impressive — particularly given that lefty bats carry only a .213/.289/.292 slash against him.”
Who Is Luis Avilan?
Luis, 29, is a 6’2, 290lb left hand reliever. Avilan grew up in Venezula, signing with the Braves as an International Free Agent in 2005. I was not able to find a lot about him as a prospect, seemingly to be somewhat unheralded other than a pitcher of the month award in the minors.
Avilan came into the majors and made an immediate impact, in his first 2 seasons, he recorded the following stat line
Which is fairly absurd, we’re talking back of the bullpen, elite closer type numbers, on the surface. The advanced stats didn’t quite back up those results, with a lower (6.3) K/9 leading to his FIP being right around 3.
What’s interesting, is while he’s had some up and down seasons (pretty normal for relievers due to the small sample size on an annual basis), he actually has been fairly consistent. Overall, he has a career ERA at 3.09, backed by a career FIP of 3.25.
As for his Lefty/Righty Splits
Lefties - .213/.289/.292
Righties - .244/.325/.347
Interestingly, his K/9 has continued to trend up, here are the numbers by year:
2012 - 8.3 (small sample size)
2013 - 5.3
2014 - 5.2
2015 - 8.3 (jumped up to around 10 when he was traded)
2016 - 12.8
2017 - 10.2
2018 - 10.1
So let’s look at his pitches to see what the cause could have been.
The other interesting item of note - Dodger’s Digest wrote an article about how Avilan had the lowest exit velocity in baseball by a significant margin in 2015.
Avilan looks to basically throw 3 pitches (they have him listed at 4, with 0.5% Four Seamers thrown)
In 2018 - his pitches came in as follows:
Change up - 48% of all Pitches / 81.9 MPH / 2,181 Spin Rate
Sinker - 33.5% of all Pitches / 90.5 MPH / 2,132 Spin Rate
Curve - 18% of all Pitches / 70.9 MPH / 2,269 Spin Rate
So Avilan has an interesting and somewhat “Astros approach” with 2/3’s of his pitches being off-speed. He is not the spin rate darling that some others are, but he has an excellent differential in speed on his Curve vs Sinker.
The main aspect that draws red flags to me is that Avilan had a 2 MPH drop on his average sinker speed this year compared to his career. That could be a red flag of an injury, and would make sense as to why he was non-tendered.
What It would take
So Avilan is a Free Agent, so there’s not a conclusive answer to this question. But the $3.1 Million that he was projected to make in arbitration seems like an easy yes. Which only further makes me wonder as to why he was released by a team that is not particularly pressed for dollars unless the planned signings this off-season are dramatic enough to push them towards the limit.
Avilan is an intriguing candidate for a quick and simple addition to the bullpen. Luis has done extremely well in his career against same handed batters - making him a solid LOOGY candidate, although I think he has more in the tank than that.
To me, the largest aspect that needs to be investigated is the drop in velocity. That’s always a concern and could be a warning sign of trouble, and again explain why he was non-tendered.
Let me know your thoughts on why you would or wouldn’t want the Astros to go after him.
Do you want the Astros to pick up Luis Avilan?
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