Lester Oliveros is the Player to be Named Later in the Delmon Young trade. The 23 year old right handed reliever has spent most of his career in the minors, but he did sip a cup of coffee with Detroit earlier this year, giving up five runs and striking out four in eight innings. His numbers at AAA this year have been a bit ugly (6.43 ERA, 37 hits, 17 BB, and 26 K in 28 innings), but Oliveros has put up very good strikeout totals everywhere else he’s been in the minors.
According to an online profile written by the Central in Focus few months ago, Oliveros is a pretty solid power pitcher. He has a fastball in the mid-90s that occasionally gusts to 97 mph, and his slider is a legitimate out pitch. In the short term, the Twins have assigned him to AAA Rochester, and it will be good if he can develop his changeup while he’s there. One would assume he’ll be called up in September when rosters expand, and he’ll almost certainly figure into the Twins’ bullpen plans for 2012.
While the Twins certainly didn’t receive as much value in return for Young as they could’ve gotten last winter, Oliveros is an intriguing prospect. The bullpen is still the team’s biggest area of need, and power arms like Oliveros are in short supply. If nothing else, he should at least push Alex Burnett and Jim Hoey to step up their games a little bit.
Despite the fact that he was the Player to be Named Later, Oliveros appears to be the centerpiece of this trade – over the short run at least, Oliveros is a more proven commodity, and he’s more likely to contribute to the Twins over the next few years. Cole Nelson, the other player acquired, has some upside, but he’s at a much lower level in his development than Oliveros. If you want to read a bit more about Nelson, Twinkie Town had a pretty interesting article.
Beyond the acquisition of Oliveros and Nelson, the Young trade has some implications for the future of the Twins. For one thing, it seems to indicate that the Twins are serious about re-signing Michael Cuddyer. We’ve heard for months that the Twins are interested in keeping their longest-tenured player, but the Young move demonstrates that they are confident they’ll be able to do so. The Twins would not part with their only other right-handed hitting outfielder if they thought Cuddyer would leave, too.
Additionally, this trade, coupled with the likely departure of Jason Kubel after the season, sets the stage for a potentially-exciting position battle next spring. Ben Revere has gotten some playing time in the Twins’ outfield this year, as has Rene Tosoni. Trevor Plouffe has been moving around the diamond as well, and he could be a factor in the 2012 outfiled. Finally, Joe Benson is having another good year at AA. If he finishes the season strong and has a stellar spring, he could be a darkhorse candidate for Young’s leftfield slot.