When the Padres acquired Pedro Avila from the Nationals last December, he was just an ordinary prospect—or at least he was supposed to be one. You can’t expect to get a good prospect for Derek Norris, not after Norris put up a .222/.283/.370 slash line in two seasons in San Diego, bottoming out in 2016.
Since coming over to the Padres, however, Avila’s quietly been distancing himself from ordinary prospect territory, as Ryan Luz documented recently over at Padres Prospectus. He’s back at Single-A currently, after some moderate struggles with Lake Elsinore earlier this year, but he’s still struck out 28 percent and allowed just 0.4 HR/9 on the season, rosy numbers for a 20-year-old no matter the level.
Then, last night happened. Avila gathered his favorite loud noise instruments—his vuvuzelas and his fog horns and his trumpets—and ensured himself a little attention in a farm system packed with attention-hogging prospects. Facing the Great Lakes Loons, in front of 3,018 patrons at a place called Dow Diamond in Midland, Michigan, Avila struck out 17 and walked none in eight innings.
What I wanted to do was open up the MiLBtv archived game, check out Avila’s performance for myself, make some gifs, and tally up his swings and misses by pitch type. Turns out, MiLBtv takes like two-plus hours to get a game into archive mode, so that plan went out the window. Gameday does track swings and misses, however, so here’s the breakdown by inning.
1st inning: 5
2nd inning: 3
3rd inning: 1
4th inning: 5
5th inning: 1
6th inning: 2
7th inning: 4
8th inning: 6
That’s 27 swings and misses on the night, besting Avila’s previous career-high by eight whiffs. In fact, since being demoted from High-A back to Single-A in early June, Avila has posted double-digit swing-and-miss totals in eight of his nine starts, and he’s set (or tied) a new career-best in the category three times. Overall, his swinging strike rate is up from 10 percent at Lake Elsinore to 17.5 percent at Fort Wayne. Even compared to last season, when Avila racked up 92 strikeouts in 93 innings (and a 12 percent swinging strike rate) in the Single-A South Atlantic League, he’s getting better . . . a lot better.
It wasn’t just the swings and misses either, as Ryan Luz informed me that Avila was spotting his fastball and buckling knees with the curve all night. He got 20 called strikes, the fourth-best total of his career. (He did throw a career-high 107 pitches, mind you). He was, in short, really, really good.
This is the part where I say something about Avila being undersized, not having overwhelming fastball velocity, needing to work on refining a third pitch, having to prove it at a higher level, TINSTAAPP, and our collective impending nuclear doom. Those are all concerns—some more than others—but Avila’s only 20, he’s getting better by the outing, and he’s gone from interesting prospect to Interesting Prospect in the span of a few weeks. A promotion back to Lake Elsinore could be in the cards later this season, but he’ll definitely be back in California by early in 2018. Either way, we’ll be watching—that is, if this archived game ever shows up.