Cuban second baseman Hector Olivera recently hosted a showcase for interested big league teams. San Diego Padres‘ General Manager A.J. Preller along with his international scouting director, Chris Kemp were both on hand to witness what they hope is another piece to the Friars roster overhaul for 2015. Ben Badler of Baseball America recently reported that he believes the Padres are the front-runner going into the clubhouse to sign Olivera.
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The problem with Olivera isn’t his talent. It is there in abundance, as the first day of the two-day showcase had him taking infield and running the 60-yard dash, posting times between 6.7 and 6.8 seconds. No, the problem with Olivera is the uncertainty of his health. As previously reported here at Friars On Base, Olivera missed the entire 2012-2013 campaign with a blood disorder. It’s tough for any athlete to return to previous form when missing an entire year, and being able to do very little to keep the rust off during his down time.
When Olivera returned to action during the 2013-14 season, he played in only 29 games at his natural position–second base, and served primarily as his team’s designated hitter. Questions still remain as to why. Was he not physically able to handle playing the field every day? Had his skills eroded from being a premier middle infielder to being an average one at best? For the 29-year old, who is chasing his big league dream like fellow countryman Yoan Moncada, this uncertainty may cost him millions of dollars.
Badler goes on break down Olivera’s workout, where he faced live pitched and recorded three knocks in eight at-bats. According to Badler’s report, scouts stated that Olivera looked fatigued during the second day of the showcase, but the 6’2″, 220-lb. looked solid as a defender at both second base and third base, where he is considered to have a plus-arm.
Scouts have also stated that he has above-average power, and has reached double-digits, steadily increasing his total each full season he’s played, other than last season, when he returned after the start of the season, and recorded seven long balls in 83 at-bats. Olivera has a natural upper-cut, creating what Badler terms “loft” on contact, and shows power to all fields.
Olivera like Mondada and other Cuban defectors, are awaiting the new license agreement from MLB and OFAC to be completely worked out, as he has established residency in Haiti. Olivera defected Cuba this past September and has been playing the waiting game, much like his fellow countrymen. Teams that are interested include the Padres, the Giants, the A’s, and the Braves among others. Olivera plans on holding private work outs for teams in the coming weeks. If the Padres do land the big league-ready infielder, it could provide a big boost if Jedd Gyorko struggles or if Will Middlebrooks fails to return to his rookie year form.
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