The most eye-catching thing Abiatal Avelino did on the Giants last year was look like he's auditioning for the next Karate Kid before he walked to the plate.
Abiatal Avelino struck out in his first big league at-bat. He has an interesting routine before getting to the plate: pic.twitter.com/3H2c8Rroa0— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) September 8, 2018
In six games with Giants after his September call-up, Avelino went 3-for-11 at the plate. The 23-year-old infielder, whom the Giants acquired from the Yankees in a trade centered around Andrew McCutchen, was praised more for his hustle and passion than his play in San Francisco.
Under new president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi's direction, though, Avelino can be the type of prospect the Giants need.
Originally signed by the Yankees out of the Dominican Republic in 2011, Avelino still is young and much more raw than polished, especially at the plate. He was repeating Double-A to start the season last year after making it to Triple-A in 2017, and wound up hitting .254 with a .767 OPS between two minor league levels in two different organizations.
What makes Avelino so intriguing, though, is his athleticism and expanding his versatility. He stole 27 bases in the minors last year, but what he's doing right now in the Dominican Winter League is the prototype of a Zaidi player on the 40-man roster.
Zaidi's Dodgers featured a roster full of positional versatility last season. This certainly is something Zaidi wants to bring to the Giants, who have lacked multi-positional players for quite some time.
“I do think it has a cultural impact on a roster when players move around and they don't identify as 'I'm the shortstop and I'm the third baseman,' " Zaidi said. "You're just a baseball player, and you're part of the team and you do whatever the team asks or needs of you, and that creates a different kind of culture that I think is really conducive to a winning environment."
Avelino is playing this winter for the Gigantes del Cibao. He has cooled off a bit at the plate lately, but he's batting .297 with a .354 on-base percentage in 17 games so far. The best way Avelino is helping himself right now for the future is adapting defensively.
Throughout his minor league career, Avelino has primarily played shortstop and second base. For the Gigantes, Avelino still is playing some up the middle, but he's also playing a lot of third base and even wearing a bigger glove as a left fielder.
Avelino's biggest strength is his arm. On a scale of 20 to 80, MLB Pipeline rates him as having a 60-grade arm. With his speed and arm, Avelino could be a viable backup option in the Giants' outfield.
"I think this is a roster that can use some multi-position guys on the infield to keep those guys fresh and maybe play matchups a little bit more and give some of the lefties days off against tough left-handed pitching, and vice versa," Zaidi said about the Giants' well-established, veteran infield.
Good news -- Avelino is a right-handed hitter who can play any position in the infield, and now can add depth to the outfield. This is the kind of roster flexibility the Giants need, and just one example of a young player who can provide that.