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Fantasy Baseball 2011 Sleeper: Mike Aviles

By Michael Keneski, Fantasy Baseball Dugout guest contributor

Today starts the recurring 2011 Fantasy Baseball Sleeper posts as we move closer to the new season. A sleeper in my definition is a player who has shown talent in glimpses and small samples in the past but who has not been able to sustain it over the course of a season. These players should have the opportunity to make good on their potential this season and they without a doubt will either rise to stardom or go fade into baseball oblivion. With that being said lets take a look at our first such player this season and that is Kansas City Royals 2B/SS Mike Aviles.

When one were to look at winning rosters in the 2010 fantasy baseball season, there no doubt were scores of top of the line talent lining those clubs such as the Robinson Cano’s, Albert Pujols’, and Ryan Braun’s of the world. However I am willing to wager a pretty penny that Kansas City Royals 2B/SS Mike Aviles was one more of those teams than you were to think. Mike Aviles? Are you smoking crack Roto Boss? No I dont smoke and allow me to explain because I am speaking from personal experience with this.

Mike Aviles first sprang to fantasy baseball owners’ minds back in the 2008 season when he hit.325 with 10 home runs and 8 SB in 491 at-bats which was his rookie season. Aviles was snatched up as a guy who many instantly fell in love with and thus he became a guy who was drafted in the middle rounds of most drafts due ot the fact the same owners believed he was a star in the making due to such a very good debut. Well unfortunately the road to the Hall of Fame for Aviles took a major detour in 2009 as he got hurt right off the bat once the season began and he totally crashed and burned to the tune of a putrid.189 average with only 1 HR and 1 SB in only 120 at-bats. Ugghh! To say that Aviles was a draft bust in 2009 was a major understatement.

As a result of his complete washout in 2009, Aviles was completely ignored once the 2010 season began as the fantasy baseball community concluded his rookie season was just a fluke. When Aviles started off the season in the minor leagues, no one noticed. Well Aviles was soon brought back in May and he flashed his batting average prowess the next two months by hitting.317 and.333. Despite the great average, it only resulted in 2 HR and 0 SB. More yawning thus ensued and Aviles was headed for a second straight useless season. Than a funny thing happened.

One of the main themes of the 2010 fantasy baseball season was the rampant injuries to the 2B position as guys like Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler, Brian Roberts, and Chase Utley among others all came down with long term hurts that put their owners in a bind. The SS position was no different as guys like Jimmy Rollins and Jose Reyes also had their share of DL time to further put owners in a crimp. Enter Aviles.

On September 1, Mike Aviles still only had the 2 HR’s from May and June and 7 stolen bases with the customary.300-plus average. What Aviles did in the next 30 days no doubt won many of the titles mentioned earlier. As most league championships were being decided, Aviles wound up hitting 6 home runs with 7 stolen bases with a.357 average. Yes you read that right. 6 home runs from a 2B/SS in the deciding month of the fantasy baseball calendar which is like getting 12 from a 1B or a slugging OF. It was basically like catching lightning in a bottle or hitting the lottery. As I stated earlier, I personally benefitted from Aviles’ rampaging month in one of my winning money leagues as I was missing Dustin Pedroia and needed help in a big way. All I was looking for was someone to keep me afloat in my battle to take home the title and what I got was the clinching piece in my victory.

So with all that being said, it appears as though Aviles is once again at the forefront of fantasy baseball owners’ attention. Without a doubt there will be some who will extrapolate Aviles’ crazy month over a whole season and drool all over the place with visions of 30/30. No back to reality. Even though I dont think Aviles will come close to that mark, I do think he will be more than serviceable for 2011. The guy has shown that he can hit.300 in his sleep and batting average has always been one of the most underrated fantasy baseball categories. The growth in pop and stolen bases in September was nice to see but obviously you cant expect him to stay at that level. One can argue however that the light possibly went on for Aviles last September and so the confidence he gained during that time period could bring about a nice 2011 season. I think the stolen bases are more likely to stay in his numbers than the power as a player can learn how to steal correctly but the pop is something thats more inbred. Either way with the extreme shallowness that the SS position is (and 2B is not so deep either), Aviles can be a nice cheap source of double digit steals and home runs with a.300 average. Sounds great to me. So during your draft when you see the Hanley Ramirez’ and Robinson Cano’s flying off the board early in the draft, dont panic and keep Aviles in the back of your mind to pick late. His dual eligibility at 2B and SS affords you nice leeway and as last September showed you, Mike Aviles has a knack for delivering when the time is right.

2011 Projection:.304 86 R 14 HR 74 RBI 15 SB

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