More than 200 scouts attended workout for Hector Olivera last week in DR. SFG, SD, TX, ATL, NYY among teams showing strong interest. #Cuba
— Jesse Sanchez (@JesseSanchezMLB) January 24, 2015
At his best, Olivera (listed at 6-foot-2, 195 pounds) had been one of the most well-rounded players in Cuba, showing a combination of hitting ability, power, speed and size. In 2011-12, Olivera hit .341/.462/.626 with 17 home runs, 44 walks and 22 strikeouts in 214 plate appearances, ranking third in the league in slugging behind only Jose Abreu (now with the White Sox) and Alfredo Despaigne, and he ranked fourth in OBP.
He also won the home run derby at the 2012 all-star game and has displayed impressive power for a middle infielder. He showed his hitting ability with a batting average .315 or better in nine of his 10 seasons in Cuba and recorded more walks than strikeouts in his last eight seasons. During the 2007-08 season, Olivera stole 21 bases in 22 attempts, although he hasn’t been much of a threat on the bases since then, even before he was sidelined.
And the Braves may actually be able to afford him since, as a veteran of more than five seasons in Cuba, he’s exempt from the bonus pools.
But there’s a catch.
Olivera missed the entire 2012-13 season and hasn’t played in any international tournaments since then, including the 2013 WBC. While it’s difficult to verify medical information on Cuban players, according to Cuban media reports, Olivera had thrombosis in his left biceps, a condition that blocks blood flow and can be serious.
Olivera returned this past season in 2013-14 (which ended in March) to play for Santiago De Cuba in Serie Nacional and still performed as one of the top hitters in the league, batting .316/.412/.474 in 273 plate appearances with seven home runs and more walks (38) than strikeouts (25). He didn’t play much in the field, however, spending 29 games at second base with the rest at DH.
At least the Braves are pursuing some offense. Too bad Liberty’s too cheap to spend the money on Moncada, who is likely to emerge as a star by 2017.