Tigers Prospect Profile #27: Lester Oliveros

Despite not posting great raw numbers in 2009, there was plenty to be excited about from Lester Oliveros's season last year. What did Oliveros show beyond the stats, and what's next for the young reliever?

Lester Oliveros
Position: Right-handed Pitcher
Height: 6-0
Weight: 215
Born: 5/28/1988
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Background
There has yet to be much other than success in Oliveros' professional career, starting with back-to-back TigsTown VSL Pitcher of the Year awards in 2006 and 2007, after signing as a teenager for only $8,500. Over two years in the VSL, Lester posted a 2.08 ERA and struck out 105 in just 78 innings over 47 games.

The Tigers brought him stateside for the 2008 season and he was again successful pitching for the short-season class-A Oneonta Tigers. His ERA was again very low, settling in at 1.74, with only six walks and 34 strikeouts in only 20 2/3 innings of work. Lester also tossed 10 2/3 innings at High-A Lakeland in 2008, posting a 4.22 ERA, though he walked nine and struck out only three.

As a 21-year old in 2009, Oliveros was pushed back to High-A Lakeland, and on the whole he turned in yet another successful season. Though his 4.17 ERA appears modest on the surface, he did strike out 58 in 54 innings while pitching against generally older competition.

After only spot duty in the Venezuelan Winter League over the prior two years, Oliveros saw some real action against advanced competition this winter, appearing in 15 games for Caribes de Anzoategui. In a total of 20 1/3 innings, Oliveros struggled with walks, issuing ten free passes, but he did strike out 19 and showed solid groundball tendencies.

Scouting Report
Oliveros has a very thick lower half that generates plus velocity despite barely reaching six-feet tall. Lester has struggled generating a good angle on his fastball, and he must learn to work lower in the zone more often, or he could get hurt once outside of such pitcher friendly environments as the Florida State League.

With a fastball that can get up to 95 and sits at 92-93 with explosive life, Oliveros has the stuff to work in late innings and the mentality to back it up. He is a fierce competitor with plenty of passion on the mound and an intensity that is nearly unrivaled in the Tigers' minor league system.

Oliveros also mixes in a slider that flashes as a plus pitcher and a change-up that shows as solid-average at times. His slider can get into the mid-80s at times, and when he keeps his elbow up, he can get excellent two-plane break.

Lester is still learning how to pitch, and he must gain more faith in his ability to throw his slider and change-up in all counts. As he improves his command, Oliveros has the stuff to work through hitters quickly, generating both swings and misses, and groundballs with ease.

Scouts are split on their projection for Oliveros, with half viewing him as a 7th/8th inning guy, and others thinking he could still develop into a solid closer. His command of the fastball must improve so that he can work below the waist with ease, otherwise he will likely be more of a middle man.

To see Oliveros in action, view the scouting video below:

Performance

Level

Team

W-L

ERA

G

GS

SV

SO

BB

IP

AVG

A+

Lakeland

4-2

4.17

34

0

2

58

16

54.0

.249

AAA

Toledo

0-0

0.00

1

0

0

3

1

2.0

.250


Health Record
Oliveros has had little in the way of arm soreness or injury in his minor league career. His excellent use of his thick lower half helps take stress off of his arm. The next big test will be his ability to work back-to-back days without any impact on his performance, and that test could begin as soon as this year.

The Future
Oliveros will head to Double-A Erie for the 2010 season, and while the Eastern League is still generally considered a pitcher friendly environment, his home park is more conducive to offense than any park he has played in. It will be a good test of his ability to continue developing.

Of all the relievers in the upper levels of the Tigers' system, Oliveros may be one of the few that is still almost two years away. His ability to work low in the zone is going to be a stumbling block against more advanced hitters, and it may take some time and development for him get that under control. Expect an up and down season for Oliveros in 2010, but the ups will be flashes of what could be in the future for Tiger fans.

Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.


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