Q&A: Mike Aviles, a Good Defensive Shortstop

The Toronto Blue Jays got a good defensive shortstop when they acquired Mike Aviles from the Red Sox as compensation for John Farrell. The 31-year-old came into the 2012 season with a utility-man reputation, having played nearly as many games at second base and more than a handful at the hot corner. Thanks to regular playing time at his best position, that has changed. To the surprise of many, hr was one of the best defensive shortstops in the American League this season.

Aviles talked about his defensive game in the final week of the Red Sox season.


Aviles on playing shortstop: “Starting from high school on, I’ve played short. It’s been a position that’s come rather naturally for me, compared to the other positions I’ve played.

“Everybody has their own opinions, but I feel that I’m a pretty solid shortstop. I may not win any Gold Gloves, and you may not hear about me on ESPN, or see me do all kinds of crazy plays, but I can do the job. My main focus is to just get the out. I want to make the plays and have the respect of my teammates and coaches. That’s all I’m really concerned about. I don’t need a lot of attention.”

On metrics showing that he‘s a good defensive shortstops: “I do like hearing that. It makes me feel proud of all the work I’ve done, because I know I’ve had a rep of not being the best defensively. But I think that was more because of the moving around, here and there, and switching positions. Overall, whenever I’ve been able to play short, I’ve proved that I can be pretty solid. The [metrics] are a good thing for me and something I can take as a positive for this year.”

On positioning: “Getting more experience at shortstop has been big. I’ve learned to position myself better on certain hitters, knowing what their tendencies are. I’m playing alongside of that. I think the biggest thing about showing off range is knowing where you need to play against certain hitters. You can’t play in the same spot against everybody, because different guys do different things. Positioning better has helped me make more plays.

“Charts and scouting reports definitely help. Last year we had Tim Bogar [positioning the infield] and this year we have Jerry Royster. Between them, they’re letting me know, ‘This guy has been hitting a lot of balls over in this area, so we want to take care of this area more than that one.’ And while the scouting helps, so does the experience of seeing it live and playing consistent reps, seeing the hitters’ swings and what the pitchers are trying to do. I’m playing along with the pitchers’ plans.”

On his double-play partner: “I think I’m the same shortstop regardless of who is next to me. I’ve played games without Pedey [Dustin Pedroia] and feel like it’s been the same thing. Of course, any time you have a guy like Pedey over there, it makes you that much better. You know that any ball that can be turned into a double play is going to be, every time. That’s the reason he’s the reigning Gold Glove winner. But regardless of who my double play partner is, I’m out there just trying to do my job. I‘m not flashy, but I can make the plays.”


Ben Jedlovec, Baseball Info Solutions: “Mike Aviles had a great season from a defensive perspective. His 14 Defensive Runs Saved was tied for fifth among all shortstops in 2012. This was a mild surprise, given that Aviles doesn’t have a widespread reputation as a defender. However, he has spent only one other season as a regular shortstop, 2008, when he also saved 14 runs defensively. He did have a disappointing 2010 season at second base with -8 Defensive Runs Saved. All in all, Aviles was a pleasant surprise defensively for the Red Sox.”

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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11 years ago

The Jays certainly have excellent defense on the 2B side of the infield. If only the entire game took place there, those five guys (well, four after Kelly Johnson signs elsewhere) certainly won’t ever let anything by them.

Benjamin Ebek
11 years ago
Reply to  Radivel


11 years ago
Reply to  Benjamin Ebek

The point is, there isn’t really room for Aviles, Lawrie, Hechavarria and Escobar there. Aviles will get sent to the bench, where he won’t get to play regularly and not always at SS, so he won’t be as effective as he can be. This is unfortunate. I feel the Jays need to make a move.

Obviously that statement is in a vacuum, and it CAN work, but it would be preferable to do things some other way.

11 years ago
Reply to  Benjamin Ebek

Isn’t Lawrie playing 3rd? Also from what I understand they are trying to unload Escobar this offseason too. Aviles being acquired to me would signal that the Escobar rumors are true.

11 years ago
Reply to  Radivel

My predictions:

First Half of 2013:
– Hech will be in the minors
– the middle infield will be Escobar/Aviles

Trade Deadline
– Yunel is traded; the return will depend on his value

Second Half of 2013:
– Hech succeeds Escobar at SS