For the second time in less than a week, high-ranking Dodgers officials were in the Dominican Republic to watch Cuban infielder Hector Olivera, who put on a showcase for several teams on Wednesday.
Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and vice president of baseball operations Josh Byrnes were among those in attendance on Wednesday, per Ben Badler of Baseball America, who said the Dodgers had "the most notable presence," and per Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs as well.
Byrnes saw Olivera in a different showcase in the Dominican Republic last Friday as well, along with vice president of international scouting David Finley and director of player personnel Galen Carr.
Not just Olivera today: there's 18 Cubans working out w/some J2 kids. Scouts complain there's too many Cuban defectors to keep track of: 50+— Kiley McDaniel (@kileymcd) February 11, 2015
Top Dominican prospects will also be on display! pic.twitter.com/e79nrZKjaE— IPL BASEBALL RD (@iplbaseball_rd) February 10, 2015
Among those other Cubans was 18-year-old pitcher Yadier Alvarez, but more on him later. For now, let's focus on Olivera, who according to Badler reached base in all five plate appearances on Wednesday.
Badler was very high on Olivera, whom he compared favorably to both Rusney Castillo and Yasmany Tomas, who cashed in with lucrative deals over the last six months. Castillo signed a seven-year, $72.5 million contract with the Red Sox in August, and Tomas signed a six-year, $68.5 million deal with the Diamondbacks in December. Badler preferred Olivera to both:
Yet, on talent alone, Olivera was a better player than Castillo and Tomas when they were in Cuba. Olivera is 29 while Castillo is 27 and Tomas 24, so that works against him, but Olivera is the same as as most major league free agents. But if I had my choice of one of those three players, assuming the team doctors give him a thumbs up, I would take Olivera over Castillo or Tomas. From talking with several scouts about it, I’m not alone in that opinion, either.
It is important to note the main difference between Olivera, 29, and 19-year-old infielder Yoan Moncada, is that Olivera is not subject to the international bonus pool restrictions and can be signed to a major league contract, with the only penalties to consider that of the competitive balance tax.
Moncada, meanwhile, cannot sign a major league contract, and will have his hefty bonus subject to a tax of 100 percent for nearly the entire amount (depending on the signing team), plus the loss of being able to sign any international amateurs for bonuses of over $300,000 from July 2, 2015 through June 15, 2017, the next two international signing periods.
Here are some more shots from today's showcase:
Cuban INF Hector Olivera currently taking BP at the IPL Showcase. pic.twitter.com/pzbrQ9bUFa— IPL BASEBALL RD (@iplbaseball_rd) February 11, 2015
There is a 1:23 video from Badler in the Baseball America link above. In addition, here are three more swings from Olivera from a different angle, from IPL Baseball: