Chicago Cubs: Alex Avila proving his worth in wake of Willson Contreras’ injury
By Jake Misener
Veteran catcher Alex Avila continues to prove his worth, stepping up in a big way since being acquired by the Chicago Cubs at the trade deadline.
When the Chicago Cubs acquired Justin Wilson and Alex Avila at the trade deadline, most everyone assumed the former meant the most. Wilson gave Chicago a left-handed reliever – and a shutdown one at that.
Avila was a consolation piece in the trade. He filled a void left by Miguel Montero and gave Willson Conteras a veteran back-up. Get Contreras some days off while adding a veteran piece. Perfect, right?
More from Cubbies Crib
- Cubs should keep close eye on non-tender candidate Cody Bellinger
- Cubs starting pitching has been thriving on the North Side
- Make no mistake: the Cubs are very much about power hitters
- Cubs are giving pitcher Javier Assad a deserved shot
- Cubs: It’s time to start thinking about potential September call-ups
As everyone now knows, Contreras suffered a hamstring injury earlier this month. When he will return from the disabled list is yet to be seen. In the meantime, Avila took the reins as the starting catcher, mentoring rookie Victor Caratini along the way.
Filling the void
Since joining the Cubs, Avila put up a mixed bag in terms of offensive production.
He hit three home runs in just 10 games, driving in eight runs during that stretch, as well. But his .207/.303/.552 leaves something to be desired. His .855 OPS, however, does not.
After Contreras injured his hamstring, Avila said he felt confident about holding down the fort behind the dish.
"“I’ve caught most of the guys and felt comfortable,” Avila told the Chicago Tribune after Contreras left the the game against San Francisco with the injury."
On the season, Avila has caught an above-league average 31 percent of would-be base stealers. Since joining the Cubs, he’s down to 17 percent. But, you have to take into account the still-limited sample size. Not to mention, Avila continues to learn a new pitching staff, league and division on-the-fly.
Mentoring the future
On top of his personal workload from a day-to-day basis, Avila serves a critical role in the clubhouse, as well. Known as a team-first guy in his career, the veteran continues to mentor the youngster Caratini.
Batting just .211 on the year, there’s still plenty of room for improvement at the plate. But Caratini continues to draw praise from Cubs pitchers, including Friday’s starter Jake Arrieta.
"“Vic is a great catcher. Avila is a great catcher as well who is very experienced and has learned how to catch the arms we have in a short time span. I think we’re capable of holding down the fort, especially until Willson gets back. Until he does, whether that’s a week or three weeks, we’re going to find a way to get it done until we get him back behind the plate."
Next: Schwarber continues to make defensive strides
A learning experience
Both Avila and Caratini continue to learn and develop. Avila works on his knowledge of the staff, the same as the Cubs’ rookie. The National League Central appears destined to go down to the stretch, with Chicago right in the mix of everything.
Losing a player like Willson Contreras could cripple most big-league teams. Thankfully, Contreras and Avila continue to step up in big ways – ready to lead the Cubs back to October.