23 June 2008

Draft Recap: Xavier Avery, CF, Cedar Grove HS (Georgia)

Introducing Xavier Avery

5’11” – 180 lbs. – Bats/Throws (L/L)

Avery was one of the top overall athletes in the 2008 Draft and was recruited heavily on both the baseball diamond and football field (ranking as the 31st best football prospect in the state of Georgia and signing this Spring with the University of Georgia). As a baseball player, Avery has only begun to tap into that athleticism. Though a bit raw in the field, and more so in the batter’s box, Avery presents an enticing package of speed, raw power and athletic instincts.

The Statistics
AVG – .561
SLG – 1.136
AB – 66
H – 37
2B – 6
3B – 4
HR – 8
RBI – 24
R – 42
SB – 35

Avery's gaudy numbers are a bit deceiving (like many high school stats) because of the inconsistent talent he faced. To his credit, he had solid showings last summer and was a pre-season Aflac All-American. While scouts may not be in agreement as to what the finished product will be, all are confident that Avery possess an impressive trove of raw materials with which to build.

Grading Out
Hitting - 30
Power - 60
Fielding - 50
Arm - 40
Speed - 70

Avery's best tool is his plus-plus speed (6.4 60-yard and clocked as low as 3.95 from home to first), but his raw power is not far behind. Right now, the focus of the organization will be to increase his contact rate and try to work to have him square up on pitches with more regularity. Keeping in mind that he has 4+ years of development ahead of him before he starts to shape into the ML player he could eventually become, the closest comp would be Carl Crawford. Game-changing speed, plus defense and an adequate arm best suited for LF. If he is able to progress as a hitter, he could profile as an above-average #2, in the .280/20 HR to .290/25 HR ballpark. His speed should put a ton of pressure on the defense and help him reach base on infield hits as he progresses through the minors.

Swing Mechanics
Scouting video available on the Orioles's Draft Tracker page at MLB.com

Load - Avery starts with an open stance than closes a bit as he loads his hands -- the lower half of his body actually resembling a stride. His hands are too low and bit too far forward. His elbow is angled nicely around 45 degrees and his bat is nearly perpendicular to the ground, each helping along his impressive bat speed. His weight distribution is acceptable, though he can be a bit uneven at times as he transfers to the next part of his swing.

Stride - He varies in a stride from nothing (just a pivot as he swings) to almost a stutter-step directly after his load. More consistency in his load through his stride would help his timing and his ability to make solid contact more frequently. His hips open a bit early, which means he's leaving some power on the table. His hands actually drop back a bit, which normally would add length to a swing. However, since he starts with his hands a little too far forward, this doesn't adversely affect his line to the ball.

Swing - Avery has tremendous bat speed and quick hands and wrists. This allows him to generate above-average raw power, despite losing energy with his hand position in load and his open hips. He has a slight uppercut to his swing (though this doesn't appear in every swing) which allows him to generate good backspin and potential carry off of solid contact.

Contact - This is the best aspect of Avery's swing. Though he is inconsistent in his load and stride his quick bat and solid form at contact allow him to drive the ball when he does square-up. He is in good power position with his arms extended, head down hips turned through the pitch and a balanced and centered body (a line perpendicular to the ground can be drawn from his head, through his core, through the thigh and knee of his back leg). He rotates well through his core. Given the loss of power in his hips opening a bit too early, a few tweaks and repetitions through minor league ball could yield plus-power as a professional.

Follow-Through - Avery tends to finish up. Generally, he is pretty clean, though he wanders in and out of finishing with a tight upper body, shortening the end of his swing. He also has a tendency to fall-off of his swing when he tenses up in his upper-half.

Swing Grade - C

Avery is deliberate and confident in the field. He gets solid carry on his throws, and has enough of an arm to project as a center fielder, though left field is probably a better fit. He utilizes his strength and athleticism by positioning himself well on balls-in-play and getting his entire body into his throws. As you might expect from a running back, his footwork is an asset, and he has plus-plus speed along good routes to the ball. He'll improve his routes and fine-tune his baseball instincts in the outfield, though he is an above-average fielder already.

Fielding Grade - B+

Stotle's Notes
Avery is an exciting player because he gives an organization so much to work with. On top of an above-average tool set, Avery has a passion for the game and a strong baseball IQ. Perhaps just as important, he was a fine student at Cedar Grove, posting a 3.8 GPA and 1420 SAT score. Any time you have a raw player with great tools, it's encouraging to see a strong work ethic and mental approach. Avery will be faced with may challenges as he matures as a ballplayer, and as a person. The Orioles invested a lot in a pick at 2:5, and could be handsomely rewarded if the organization is able to harness his ability.

Prospect Grade - B
ETA - 2013

Next Up:
TUE 6/24 - Jerome "L.J." Hoes
WED 6/25 - Kyle Hudson
THU 6/26 - Greg Miclat
FRI 6/27 - Rick Zagone

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