The Royals were swept by the Cleveland Indians over the weekend, and now find themselves in last place by two games in the AL Central as the season comes to a close this weekend. The roster has been overturned in recent weeks due to trades, injuries and September callups, but one player who has been with the team most of the year is hitting at a torrid pace.
Second baseman Mike Aviles, who has seen playing time open up since a concussion sidelined Chris Getz, is on fire in September, sporting a hitting line of .358/.376/.630 with six home runs; to put things in perspective, he hit just two in the season's first five months.
Aviles came up with the team in 2008 and did nothing but hit, posting a batting average of .325. Skeptics pointed to his low walk rate and high batting average on balls in play as signs that his success would not be sustainable, and they were right. In 2009, Aviles struggled and was shelved for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He was moved from shortstop to second base when Ned Yost took over as manager, and Aviles still had a tough time producing power, trudging through a stretch of 331 at-bats without a single home run.
When the calendar flipped to September, Aviles began to heat up, and he cracked four home runs in a span of five games two weeks ago. Much has been made of Shin-Soo Choo's domination of the Royals this month (16-28 with four home runs), but Aviles has done similar damage to Cleveland (13-32 with four home runs). For bonus points, he cracked the franchise's 5,000th home run on Sunday against Fausto Carmona. It's becoming clear that Aviles should be a lock as the opening day second baseman in 2010, and it's largely due to the case he's made in September.