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Is Xavier Avery on the Verge of a Breakout? Signs Point to Yes.

Xavier Avery, the Orioles second round selection in 2008, was considered at the time by most to be a more prominent football prospect than baseball prospect.  One of the top sixty running backs in his class, Avery had been recruited by the University of Georgia as their replacement for current NFL star Knowshown Moreno.  Avery was considered an attractive baseball prospect as well, but the competition he faced at Cedar Grove High School in Ellenwood, GA was considered to be second-rate, he hadn't focused primarily on baseball or spent tons of time on the showcase circuit, and scouts didn't know what to make of Avery outside of his speed.  And at 5' 11", Avery didnt' project to develop much power.  But the O's gave Avery a bonus of $900,000 and he left football behind.

Avery signed quickly with the Orioles and was able to accumulate 192 plate appearances for the Gulf Coast League Orioles, where he was quite impressive.  Avery batted .280/.333/.337 in the GCL, with 13 steals in 16 attempts.  This performance, despite his lack of pre-draft seasoning, led the Orioles to make Avery one of the youngest players in full-season ball in 2009, along with Delmarva teammates L.J. Hoes and Dashenko Ricardo.  Avery didn't exactly tear up the South Atlantic League, however, batting .262./.306/.340.  He was successful on 75% of his stolen base attempts, garnering 30 steals for the season, but looked rocky in the field, amassing 12 errors in 247 chances.  While none of this set the world on fire, it was pretty respectable for a raw 19 year old in A ball.

That performance, along with team evaluations in minor league camp, led the Orioles to make Avery the fourth youngest position player in A+ ball in 2010, behind Salvador Perez, Pete Hissey, and his teammate Hoes.  And so far, Avery is justifying that decision in a big way.

In five games, Avery is batting .389/.522/.444.  He has three multi-hit games, and has been on base at least twice in every game this season.  A career .309 hitter against lefties, the left-handed Avery is batting .400 against them while hitting .375 against righties.  And while the sample size is minuscule, Avery currently has more walks (4) than strikeouts (3) - which already looks like a big improvement over 2009 when he had a BB/K ratio of 27/111.

The minor league season is very young.  But the signs from Avery are very encouraging.  As a toolsy and raw outfield prospect who is among the youngest players in A+, a left handed batter with a reverse platoon split and improving plate discipline, Avery is in a position to fly up the prospect rankings if he can build on the success of his first week of 2010.