Mike Aviles might be the biggest surprise of the Royals season so far, but to me, the biggest surprise of all is simply that he’s had an opportunity to play.
In spring training, you could have told me almost everything that’s happened to the Royals so far this season – the 12-game losing streak, Jose Guillen’s streakiness, the Milton Bradley-Ryan Lefebvre peace summit – and I would have believed it. But Mike Aviles as our starting, everyday shortstop? That would have been tough to imagine. In hindsight, as always, these things are easy to understand. I didn’t expect Tony Pena to hit .154, but if you had to guess on Opening Day that some everyday player in the majors would be hitting
So you have a team with a shortstop who can’t hit, and two shortstops who can’t field, and no obvious solution in the minor leagues. Put it that way, and you’d expect
You can’t expect this to continue. I was going to list his PECOTA projection from the start of the year to make my point, except it appears we didn’t even bother to run a projection for him (which is my fault, as I didn’t even bother to give
But when you take the air out of his
When the alternative is Tony Pena Jr: hell yes. But don’t fool yourself: it’s a miracle that Dayton Moore has allowed
This has been brought up in the comments section, but to pile on: in two straight games,
Maybe Hillman has come to the conclusion that
Which is why I think he won’t be here as soon as tomorrow, when the Royals return home and return to DH rules for the rest of the season.
I think the Royals should still keep their eye out for a long-term option at shortstop, which only continues a state of affairs that has been in place since Greg Gagne’s tenure ended. But if nothing else,
He was named the Royals’ minor league player of the year last season, but was neither given a September callup nor added to the 40-man roster. He was passed over in the Rule 5 draft. He got called up, inserted in the lineup for one day, then didn’t play for a week. He’s got his shot now, and he’s running with it. And I can’t help but think of another short middle infielder who moved the minor leagues slowly, and despite hitting .297/.378/.502 as a 25-year-old in Double-A was left off his team’s 40-man roster.
Only Dan Uggla was selected in the Rule 5 draft, won the starting job for the Marlins at second base, and hit .282 with 27 homers as a 26-year-old rookie. And unlike another 26-year-old rookie – the one we just traded to
I feel comfortable saying that Aviles will never be as good as Uggla is right now. I feel equally comfortable saying he doesn't have to be.
I’ve given Hillman a lot of flak for his bad tactical moves, and I stand by them. But tactics, by definition, take a back seat to strategy. The minutiae of tactical maneuvering means little if you can’t get the big-picture strategic decisions right – like, say, who your starters are. It seems obvious today that Mike Aviles should be the starting shortstop. And maybe, given how bad Pena has been and how few other options appear to be available, the Royals would have ended up starting
But maybe not. If Buddy Bell were still here, he might have insisted that the Royals trade a low-level prospect for John McDonald or some other hitless wonder, and we would have started this cycle all over again. Hillman’s lost a few games with his decisions this year. But he won one back when