Dealing Alex Wood to the Dodgers for Hector Olivera brought a great deal of uncertainty to the Braves organization. Although a promising prospect, there were some question marks attached to him – for one, he was already 30. Rumors were also circulating that he needed Tommy John Surgery. He didn’t. The Braves and Dodgers were unsure how long it would take for him to reach the majors, and Alex Wood was a viable option for the Braves rotation.

When the Braves called Olivera up in September he showed flashes of why Atlanta traded for him. His biggest issue was facing left-handed pitchers; he slashed .067/.176/.067 in 17 plate appearances.

Against right-handed pitchers, however, Olivera slashed .297/.343/.484

Although Spring Training games don’t count, Olivera’s hitting everything coming across the plate this year. Through 13 games, and 39 at-bats, Olivera is slashing .410/.415/.487 and is second in the MLB in hitting.

It’s no secret Atlanta has stockpiled prospects in an apparent rebuild, but that doesn’t always mean the prospects will pan out. Trading for Olivera was somewhat of a low-risk, high-reward, considering Los Angeles agreed to eat almost half of his contract, so, the Braves will pay him upwards of $30 million over the next five years.

The biggest concern surrounding Olivera currently is whether or not he can efficiently play left field. Luckily, Atlanta has solid defensive replacements, but he has struggled in Spring Training.

Olivera was known as a high-average guy in Cuba, with a decent amount of power. There’s a lot of talent there, and it’s doubtful the Braves would use him strictly as a platoon player, considering his success against righties.

Atlanta had a big problem with players not named Freddie Freeman taking at-bats last season. Olivera has shown considerable improvement in his plate discipline from last year to this year.

If he can develop into the player he was projected to be, or the player he was in Cuba, with the help of fellow prospects, Atlanta could be in a position to contend for the NL East in a few years.

Other prospects like first overall draft pick Dansby Swanson and speed demon Mallex Smith have also shown promise, but as expected were optioned to Triple-A.

Swanson and Smith may be a year or two away from the MLB, but Atlanta will look to Olivera to be a viable option at the plate and in left field this season.

Although the Braves are not looking to be a 90-100 win team this season, that doesn’t mean they won’t be competitive. If Olivera can show consistent discipline at the plate, he can and will develop into a very good, everyday player.

About The Author

Steve Benko

• 23 • Staff Writer • IBWAA Member

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