Chicago Cubs: Alex Avila proving he’s a key for World Series repeat
It’s been a little over a month since the Chicago Cubs traded for left-handed reliever Justin Wilson and veteran catcher Alex Avila. To this point, it seems one half of the trade is working out for the Cubs.
Going into Thursday’s series opener at Wrigley Field against the Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs’ backstop Alex Avila was slashing .267/.362/.450.
That’s not bad for a backup 30-year-old catcher.
I’m not saying he’s been flawless. Fans would like it if he didn’t strikeout as much as his strikeout percentage says as it sits at 35.7 percent in August.
His OBP remains high, which bodes well for the rest of the season for him and his role on this team.
When Willson Contreras returns to action — which could be sooner rather than later — Avila will go back to his role as a spot starter and most likely start when a right-handed pitcher is on the mound.
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Since Contreras went down with a hamstring injury Aug. 9th, Avila has played in all but three games. Manager Joe Maddon will likely ease Contreras back in once he returns so Avila’s play won’t change much.
With the signing of Rene Rivera and the September call up of Victor Caratini, he may lose a few at-bats, however. We all know the madness in Joe Maddon lineups — unpredictable.
Avila is slashing .278/.371/.426 since Contreras went down. The numbers aren’t too different but he’s shown to get the big hit in big spots. Many remember the walk-off hit to sweep the Blue Jays on Aug. 20th.
Stepping up when needed
All in all, Avila has done what Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer envisioned. One month is a small sample size but if the Cubs make a deep playoff threat, Avila will be key whether it’s in high intense pinch-hit opportunities or playing defensively behind the plate.
It also gives Maddon another option if Contreras struggles to return to form. You never know with hamstring injuries.
One small note: Wilson has been much better in his last few appearances. However, they’ve been in very low leverage situations.
He hasn’t walked a batter in his last five appearances, which is one reason he was struggling the first few weeks with the Cubs.
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Wilson pitched the ninth inning in the series opener against Atlanta. The lefty struck out the side to help preserve a 6-2 victory to give the Cubs four straight wins.
There’s still time for him to gain Joe Maddon’s trust back in key situations.