Aiming high: Avery made it to Double-A at age 20

Maybe he tired a bit late in the year and his bat slumped then, but overall, the 2010 season has to be considered a pretty successful one for O’s outfield prospect Xavier Avery.

He began the year with Frederick as one of the youngest players in the Carolina League (at 20) and by season’s end, was the leadoff hitter and center fielder for Double-A Bowie.

“I feel like there are a lot of things I still have to learn at this level, but I’ve gotten better since I’ve been here too,” Avery told me late in the year in the Bowie clubhouse.

“At the beginning of the season, I knew I was going to Frederick. It was always in the back of my mind that I wanted to be in Bowie by the end of the season.”

Avery batted .280-4-48 with 73 runs, 25 doubles and 28 steals in 109 games with Frederick. He was batting .283 over his first 15 games with Bowie, before a 8 for 47 finish at the plate left him batting .234-3-18 in 27 Baysox games.

In 136 games between the Keys and Baysox, the lefty-hitting Avery batted .271-7-66 with 31 doubles, 83 runs, 38 steals and an OPS of .723.

“Basically, my whole minor league career, I’ve been pushed. I was 19 at Delmarva and 20 at Frederick was still young. I’m kind of used to being the young guy,” Avery said.

He also improved his plate discipline this season. He had an on-base percentage of .306 with Delmarva in 2009 and increased that to .337 this season.

He said working the count was a point of emphasis for him in 2010.

“It has been. It’s showing up here as I am getting into deep counts. You see more than fastballs when you get deeper in the counts. It’s a good thing to learn and see more pitches. That is one of the things that goes into being a good leadoff hitter.”

He is far from a power hitter, but Avery’s slugging percentage did increase this year too, from .340 at Delmarva to .386 with Frederick and Bowie.

“As I have moved up, it seems like I am hitting more homers. I think it comes with being more patient. That has allowed me to hit the ball on the head of the bat more. I know I have some pop, I am not a weak guy.”

Soon Avery will head to the Arizona Fall League and play for the Scottsdale Scorpions.

“It means a lot. It’s an opportunity and I’m going to take it, a chance to get better and see better pitchers. Some of the best talent in the minor leagues will be there,” Avery said.

Avery played left and center at Frederick and only center field in Double-A and said he took a step or two forward with the glove this season.

“I feel like I’ve improved maybe more on defense that hitting-wise. It doesn’t show up as much as hitting would. But I’ve gotten better on defense.

“I can look back at my time at Delmarva and rookie ball and see the routes I used to take and see a difference now. How I feel going after the ball, I’m just more calm now. My jumps are better and I am taking better routes to the ball.”

The Fulton, Georgia product, the O’s second-round pick in 2008 has now completed parts of three seasons on the O’s farm and he’s just 20. He realizes his career has moved along well and when you get to Double-A, there is just one team now between you and the big leagues.

“I have thought about that a lot since I’ve been here. A lot things have happened since I’ve been here, the big league manager himself was here. There are things going on at this level that didn’t happen at Frederick. It’s kind of kicking in that, oh snap, this is real. It’s getting real here, I’ve thought about that.

“It’s a great thing to be in Double-A at 20, but that’s not my goal. My goal is to be in the Major Leagues and be a great player one day. A future Hall of Famer, that’s my goal. I always set expectations high.”

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