The Seattle Mariners and the Baltimore Orioles swapped players today, the Mariners sending veteran Mike Morse to the Orioles. In exchange, the Mariners receive outfield prospect Xavier Avery. Here's a scouting report on Avery and what the Mariners can expect from their newest acquisition.
Xavier Avery, OF: The Orioles drafted Avery in the second round in 2008, from high school in Ellenwood, Georgia. He was a football star in high school and the Orioles had to spend $900,000 to keep him away from the University of Georgia gridiron. He was pushed aggressively given his rawness and was sent to Delmarva in the Low-A South Atlantic League for 2009, hitting .262/.306/.340 with 30 steals, but with a poor 27/111 BB/K ratio in 473 at-bats.
He made some progress with High-A Frederick in 2010, hitting .280/.349/.389 with 42 walks and 96 strikeouts in 447 at-bats, stealing 28 bases, then stole 10 more in 27 games after moving up to Double-A Bowie in August, though with a uninspiring .234/.288/.374 line overall. He spent all of 2011 with Bowie, hitting .259/.324/.343 with 36 steals but 156 strikeouts in 557 at-bats.
He split 2012 between Triple-A Norfolk (.236/.330/.356 with 22 steals) and the major league roster, hitting .223/.305/.340 with six steals in 32 games for the Orioles. He hasn't played in the majors this year but split the campaign between Bowie (.300/.396/.406 in 39 games with 12 steals) and Norfolk (.237/.312/.312 with 17 steals in 81 games).
Avery is a 6-0, 195 pound lefty hitter and thrower, born January 1, 1990. He is one of the better pure athletes in baseball, with excellent running speed and some wiry strength, but he is still trying to figure out how to use his tools on the field. Although his throwing arm is below average, his glove is valued because he's fast enough to run down just about anything. His reads have improved and defense is probably his best overall asset. He's also improved as a baserunner and is dangerous when he gets on base.
Unfortunately getting on base is a problem. He has worked hard to improve his selectivity at the plate, and as a result his walk rates have been trending upward. However, while he has some natural physical strength, his swing doesn't provide much power and he strikes out too much for a player who doesn't hit home runs. His career best SLG is .386, and his top OBP is .340. The .223/.305/.340 line he posted with the Orioles last year wasn't a fluke: with his current set of skills, that's exactly what he should be expected to hit. That won't get it done.
At age 23, he still has some time to develop, and players with his athleticism get plenty of chances. However, at this point even an optimistic take on Avery's future pegs him as a future reserve and bench contributor. It is hard to see him as a future regular without dramatic gains with his bat. While he's improved to some extent, so far it hasn't been enough.