In 2006, 16 year old Luis Avilan was representing the Braves in the Dominican Summer League, the first of his 7 seasons in professional baseball to date. Through his age 22 season, (he turned 23 in July) the left handed Avilan has accumulated 460 professional innings. By way of comparison, through their age 22 seasons, Eric Oâ€™Flaherty, Jonny Venters, and Craig Kimbrel had accumulated 309, 225, and 172 respectively. It may be a positive that Avilanâ€™s innings during those early years were under organization supervision.
Avilan (who Chris Berman will call â€œFrankie,â€ unless he can think of someone even older) has yet to throw an inning at AAA in his 7 seasons. In 2 unremarkable seasons at AA Mississippi, heâ€™s allowed 163 hits in 167.2 innings, with 133 strikeouts and 67 walks. Thatâ€™s a 1.37 WHIP, 7.1 Kâ€™s per 9 innings, and 3.6 BB per 9 innings. He had a 4.08 ERA, and a record of 7 and 14. Although he was used exclusively in relief for Atlanta this season, he started 25 out of his 52 games at Mississippi, including 12 out of 16 in 2012. He did show improvement in his repeat season.
Avilan pitched really well in his Major League stint, allowing 27 hits in 36 innings, with 33 strikeouts and 10 walks. Thatâ€™s a 1.03 WHIP, 8.3 Kâ€™s per 9 innings, and 2.5 BB per 9 innings. He had a 2.00 ERA, and won his only decision. He averaged slightly over an inning per game, and faced 84 right handed batters vs. 58 lefties, so he definitely wasnâ€™t used as just a LOOGY. He was effective against both, in the tiny samples.
36 innings is a very small sample; is it reasonable to think that Avilan is suddenly a substantially better pitcher than he showed in AA? The short answer is no, but the optimist will point to his youth, the change to the bullpen, and dream. Pitchers are more difficult to project. A new pitch is learned here; a labrum frays there.
I grew comfortable watching Avilan in close games. I imagine the front office felt the same. I also imagine they will want to see more than 36 innings before blowing up Oâ€™Ventbrel.