In desperate need of offensive punch, the Royals called up Triple-A Omaha infielder Mike Aviles on Thursday and started him at shortstop in place of the slumping Tony Pena Jr. To make room for Aviles, a 2003 seventh-round pick out of Division II Concordia (N.Y.) College, the Royals sent down designated hitter and former No. 1 prospect Billy Butler.
Aviles had been one of the hottest hitters in the minors, batting .336/.370/.631 with 10 home runs and 42 RBIs. He ranks ninth in the Pacific Coast League in average, first in extra-base hits (37) and second in hits (72), doubles (21), and triples (6). He went 0-for-3 last night in his major league debut against the Twins.
The 27-year-old Aviles’ path to the big leagues has been a slow, but steady, process. The former Division II player of the year entered his third straight season at Omaha after turning in the best performance of his pro career with the O-Royals last year, hitting .296/.332/.463. Though he may have the offensive tools for the big leagues with a short, compact swing and gap power, how Aviles fits in defensively remains a question. He profiles as an offensive-minded second baseman, though his best immediate opportunity may come at shortstop.
“It’s one of those things you work your whole life to get,” Aviles told the Kansas City Star. “You finally get the call, and it’s like everything is racing at once.”
Butler heads to Omaha after a disappointing start in which he hit just .263/.330/.339 with one home run and 18 RBIs. He was hitting just .233/.305/.302 in May, though he had hit safely in five straight games, and was emblematic of a Royals team mired in an 11-game losing streak during. The Royals, with few offensive options in the farm system, rank last in the majors in runs (193), home runs (26) and RBIs (183).