Avery reflects on his AFL experience

He may not have hit for a high average in the Arizona Fall League, but O's outfield prospect Xavier Avery felt like he made progress with his game in his time with the Scottsdale Scorpions of the AFL.

The lefty hitter, who turns 21 on New Year's Day, batted .188-0-5 in 21 games with six steals.

"I went in there to focus on just getting better," said Avery, the Orioles' second-round pick in 2008. "I felt like I accomplished that, but my numbers at the plate don't show it. I had a talk with all the coaches and I felt like I did what I came to do and that's get better, see more pitches at the plate and get more at bats.

"It was a learning experience for me and I felt like I learned a lot being there. Plus, we won (the league championship), we had a good team there."

Avery began last season at Single-A Frederick and, after 109 games with the Keys, he ended the season as Double-A Bowie's center fielder and leadoff hitter.

Between the two clubs, he hit .271-7-66 with 31 doubles, six triples, 83 runs, 38 steals and an OPS of .723.

He was named as the Carolina League's 12th-best prospect by Baseball America.

Avery said a big focus in Arizona was to see more pitches at the plate and get better at working the count.

"I kind of changed how I hit a little bit there. I was making some adjustments early on to help me hit the slider and pick up the ball better. I felt like my hitting got better to carry into next year," he said. "I can see the breaking pitches and pick them up fine, but I just need to stay back better and not jump at the ball."

"I can remember a 10-pitch AB, probably the longest one I have ever had. I could see the pitcher get mad because I was fouling off so many pitches and I didn't get a hit there, but felt like I had a good AB. In the long run, that helps me to see I can go 10 pitches. After that, I was going eight-pitch at-bats and getting deeper into counts."

Avery is now back in the weight room and is working out with some other players this offseason in the Atlanta area. Among them are the Braves' Jason Heyward. Avery has also been joined there by LJ Hoes, his teammate in 2008 in the Gulf Coast League, in 2009 at Single-A Delmarva and last summer in Frederick.

Avery is not unhappy at all at hitting .188 in the AFL.

"I feel like it exposed to me to different athletes and a different area. For one, the field there was real big, first time I ever played in center where the fence was 430. My speed had to kick in an extra gear," he said. "I was exposed to some good competition and sometimes the best coaching is competition. I felt like I held my own and competed every day, even if the numbers don't show it. I felt like I could play with those guys."

Note from Steve: I have some vacation time upcoming over the next few days. I still have some stories that will be published on my blog over the next few days, but you may notice I don't respond to each and every comment. I will get to a few but also hope to take a brief vacation from my computer, as well. Thanks for understanding and please keep the comments coming. - Steve.

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