Tigers Prospect Profile #9: Lester Oliveros

The 22-year old product from Venezuela, Lester Oliveros hasn't been overwhelming when one glances at the stat sheet, but there's a reason that he was put in closer's roles for two teams in 2010 - he's the best closing prospect the Tigers have.

Lester Oliveros
Position: Right-handed Pitcher
Height: 6-0
Weight: 225
Born: 5/28/1988
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Background
Oliveros signed at age 17 in 2005 before making his pro debut in the VSL in 2006 on the joint Marlins-Tigers squad. Oliveros' debut was impressive as he posted a 2.72 ERA in 20 games. Over 39 2/3 innings he allowed only 29 hits and struck out 46, though he did walk 20.

A return engagement in the VSL in 2007 saw even better results. The powerful right-hander saved 19 games with a 1.41 ERA. He again allowed a small number of hits, just 25 in 38 1/3 innings, and he cut his walks to just 13 while still striking out an impressive amount by fanning 59.

Brought stateside for the 2008 season, Oliveros spent most of his time at the short-season level, coming on in relief in 15 games. He also made five appearances in the Florida State League. Overall he finished with a 2.59 ERA, and again he allowed less than a hit per inning, and struck out more than a batter per inning.

Oliveros returned to Lakeland for the summer of 2009, and though his ERA jumped to a career high 4.02, he still managed to show strong peripherals. In 56 innings, Oliveros yielded just 55 hits and 17 walks while striking out 61.

The Tigers sent Oliveros back to Lakeland one more time in 2010 and he finally put together the dominating string of performances that would earn him his first taste of Double-A. In 20 games for the Flying Tigers, Oliveros saved nine games and pitched 19 innings. Over that span he allowed just 13 hits and six walks, and struck out 24.

Once promoted to Double-A Oliveros had some adjustments to make against more mature hitters. He posted a 4.97 ERA but did save 14 games in 24 outings. He allowed only 20 hits in 25 1/3 innings and struck out 36, but he did allow 21 free passes.

Scouting Report
Oliveros is a classic sinker-slider power reliever. He has a thick lower half that he uses to generate excellent drive down the mound. His arm is lightning fast and his delivery does have some effort. The effort in his delivery does cause him to lose control of his fastball at times.

When down in the zone, Oliveros' fastball has good sink and can induce ground balls and weak contact with ease. He has a tendency to elevate too frequently and though his fastball has excellent velocity it has less life.

Oliveros has one of the better sliders in the Tigers minor league system and he has no fear of throwing it in any situation. He is still learning the nuances of using the pitch to his advantage, like when to bury it on a hitters back foot, and when to use it as a chase pitch out of the zone.

One of Oliveros' most notable traits is the aggressive mentality he displays on the mound. He relishes pressure situations and attacks hitters with his best stuff at all times. At times, he will fall in love with his fastball and can become too predictable.

Oliveros has all the tools to become a big league closer. He has swing and miss stuff and the mentality to fit the role. His command has shown flashes of coming around in the past, and though scouts don't believe he will ever have plus command, they believe he will throw enough strikes to be a reliable high leverage option.

Performance

Level

Team

W-L

ERA

G

GS

SV

SO

BB

IP

AVG

A+

Lakeland

0-1

1.89

20

0

9

24

6

19.0

.194

AA

Erie

1-2

4.97

24

0

14

36

21

25.1

.217


Health Record
Oliveros has been healthy throughout his professional career. He has been able to take on any workload change the Tigers have given him, and there is little reason to believe he can't handle pitching on back-to-back days.

The Future
Oliveros is slated to head back to Double-A Erie to demonstrate that he has mastered the level. His command will need to take a step forward at this higher level in order for him to have the type of success expected of a pitcher with his raw stuff. Early reports out of spring training were generally positive, but he will have to show that type of command over an extended period of time.

Now on the 40-man roster, Oliveros is just a quick call from Detroit, and he could make his debut this summer if the Tigers bullpen needs a little help. It probably won't be until 2012 before Oliveros is truly ready for the big leagues, and it may be 2013 until he is ready to assume truly high leverage situations.

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