AFL Spotlight: James Avery

Our next to last look into the Reds prospects that played in the Arizona Fall League is pitcher James Avery.

Avery was originally a 29th round selection of the Minnesota Twins during the 2002 amateur draft. Avery elected to attend Niagara University instead. While at Niagara, Avery produced, securing the 2003 Metro Atlantic Conference Rookie of the Year in 2003. His record for that season was 7-2 with a 3.64 ERA. He became the fifth round pick of Cincinnati in the 2005 draft.

Here’s a look at Avery’s work since his 2005 selection.

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Generated 11/19/2010.

Avery’s role within the Reds organization has been almost strictly as a starter (119 games, 115 starts). The four games in which he hasn’t started all occurred during his initial season of 2005. He’s been a starter ever since. In the AFL, that wasn’t the case. Of his nine appearances, only two were starts. A possible explanation is the depth of talent that comprises the AFL rosters. It could also be said that many of the players there are a bit run down due to the length of the year, minors and then the AFL. It’s a haul that hits all the players.

While in Arizona, Doug Gray of discovered that Avery was toying with a new pitch.

I wasn’t sure if he was throwing a cutter or a slider. I finally got my answer. The camera’s they are using in Peoria were slightly off, which caused some issues with the pitch classification (something that I was already guessing was happening given the clusters of the pitches). The mystery pitch that Avery is throwing is indeed a slider and not a cutter. Mystery solved.

That could be a reason for Avery’s perceived struggles in the AFL.

His struggles came mostly as a reliever, a role in which he is unfamiliar. Through his first five games (10.1 IP, 2 starts), Avery surrendered four runs with only two of those being earned runs. His last four (5 IP, all relief) were actually dreadful. He surrendered ten runs with all ten scored as being earned.

You could point to Avery learning to throw that slider. Yes, it will take time for that to evolve.

Where Avery fits in the Reds future could be a tad clouded due to the logjam at the big league level. With six pitchers (Arroyo, Cueto, Volquez, Leake, Wood, Bailey) maybe a seventh (Chapman), fighting for five starters spots, it is a logjam. Plus, you have Matt Maloney and Sam LeCure that are more than capable of making an emergency start. That’s at least eight guys that could be viewed as being ahead of Avery in the pecking order. Add the fact that Daryl Thompson was just placed on the 40-man roster while Avery wasn’t.

Consider this, though. With all of these arms and the development of a new pitch, Avery has the opportunity to evolve even more.

Even with that said, time may not exactly be on his side considering Avery is 26. A start at Double-A is a given and Triple-A is a slight possibility.

Time really is of the essence.