When former Padre Derek Norris struggled to be a competent catcher in 2016, the expectations became low on his trade value.
As a result, A. J. Preller received a little known starting prospect by the name of Pedro Avila to little fanfare. Since coming over from Washington on December 2 of last year, Avila has shown to be a possible steal. The small, 5’11”, 170 lb. righty has become one of Fort Wayne’s best starters.
In nine starts and 53.1 innings, Avila has dominated the opposition. While his 3.54 ERA doesn’t serve as great support, his 2.33 FIP does.
What’s allowed the young Venezuelan to be so good has been a K rate of 10.97 and a minuscule walk rate of 1.52. In addition to excellent command, the 20-year-old boasts a mid-90s fastball and a curveball that flashes plus. Some issues that have long made Avila underrated are a decent third offering and a guarantee to be durable with limited size.
However, the results have been consistent even when Avila made a ten game showing in Lake Elsinore. While there, his ERA looked unpleasant at 4.98, but his FIP was a much more favorable 3.44. On the other hand, a 3.77 BB/9 rate will not get the job done at the highest level. Also, the stellar K rate that was shown in Fort Wayne was still spectacular in Lake Elsinore as it dropped to 11.01. Therefore, the ace-level stats that Avila has put up so far as a Padre farmhand may be more of a mirage than a reality.
Yet, Tuesday’s performance is still enough for Pedro Avila to warrant consideration in the Padres’ long term plans. In that appearance, Avila looked like a workhorse as he went eight innings before coming off the mound. That ability is always desired by teams and it’s great how such a young kid can provide a large amount of innings. But what happened during the game is more special. The short stud struck out 17 batters and K’d nine of the last ten hitters he faced. Such dominance is amazing from a prospect who was basically treated like peanuts in a trade.
In reality, Norris was probably going to be DFA’d, put through waivers, or released for his poor work, and the Nationals could have had him for free if they were patient. Instead, Washington gave something to the Padres and Preller will look good as a result. Lastly, Avila was terrific in the command department as he walked nobody, a rarity among developing players. Overall, the Venezuelan was overwhelming enough to break a Tincaps’ team record for strikeouts by a pitcher in a single game. The previous record holder was LaTroy Hawkins who sat down 15 batters in 1993. Yes, 24 years ago, which is absurd.
Maybe Pedro Avila has greater potential than originally thought. He could be a under-the-radar trade darling and be a part of San Diego’s plans for a competitive team. Tuesday night certainly showed what Avila’s capable of, and his entire season speaks to how successful he can be when given a chance. If he continues developing at the same level, the sky is the limit. His plus fastball/curveball combination mixed with his spot-on command and improving changeup gives him a high ceiling, albeit hardly a guessable one at the moment. In short, Avila is one to get thrilled about.