The Oakland Athletics were one of four teams with the largest presence at the two-day showcase for Cuban defector Hector Olivera held in the Dominican Republic last week, writes Baseball America's Ben Badler.
More than 200 scouts attended the showcase held at the San Francisco Giants' Dominican Republic facility, according to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez. The four largest contingents at the showcase were the Padres, Giants, Braves, and A's, writes Badler. Padres general manager A.J. Preller personally attended, and the Giants' highest-ranking attendee was assistant general manager John Barr.
Olivera, 29, defected from Cuba in September, a date Badler believes makes it likely that he will be able to complete an application for a specific license from the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control to sign before Opening Day.
For his fielding, Olivera showed slightly above-average speed and steady but "not flashy" defense at second base.
For his hitting, the right-handed batter showed a "quick bat" and "above-average power, hitting the ball hard to all fields and generating loft with his swing."
Fitting into the A's setup
When I last wrote about where Hector Olivera would fit into Oakland before the Ben Zobrist trade, it was easy to see where Olivera would fit into the 2015 setup, but difficult to imagine how the second baseman would fit into the three-year plan while Daniel Robertson, Chad Pinder, and Joey Wendle ascended the minor league ladder, with Franklin Barreto perhaps not too far behind at shortstop.
The A's quickly took care of that by shipping Robertson to the Rays. Wendle will need to be added to the 40-man roster before next December's Rule 5 draft, and is a prime target for a September call-up if not sooner, at which point he can be evaluated for a starting role. Pinder, entering his age-23 season this year after his first full season of professional baseball, is at best a mid-2016 callup candidate. Barreto, only turning 19, is still a ways away.
And so Olivera can fill that second base spot, which would enable Oakland to move Ben Zobrist to left field, which either sends Eric Sogard to Triple-A or leads to a trade for the out-of-options Sam Fuld. The former is more likely, as Ben Zobrist effectively serves as the extra middle infielder, allowing Fuld to be the extra outfielder while Coco Crisp and Craig Gentry platoon in center field.
|vs. LHP||vs. RHP|
|C||Josh Phegley||Stephen Vogt|
|1B||Mark Canha||Ike Davis|
|2B||Hector Olivera||Hector Olivera|
|3B||Brett Lawrie||Brett Lawrie|
|SS||Marcus Semien||Marcus Semien|
|LF||Ben Zobrist||Ben Zobrist|
|CF||Craig Gentry||Coco Crisp|
|RF||Josh Reddick||Josh Reddick|
|DH||Billy Butler||Billy Butler|
|BN||Sam Fuld||Sam Fuld|
|BN||Ike Davis||Mark Canha|
|BN||Stephen Vogt||Josh Phegley|
|BN||Coco Crisp||Craig Gentry|
|To AAA||Eric Sogard|
What remains is whether the A's will be outbid by one of the other teams. The Padres may want to upgrade from Jedd Gyorko, wrote Ben Badler in December. For the Giants, Joe Panik was a perfectly acceptable substitute for the ailing Marco Scutaro, but there's room to improve. For the Braves, their opening day second baseman is presently projected to be Alberto Callaspo. All of those teams plus the Yankees and Rangers, according to Jesse Sanchez, will compete for Olivera as opening day approaches.