Name: Lazaro Armenteros
Height/Weight: 6’0’’, 185
Acquired: Signed as an international amateur free agent on July 2, 2016.
After signing a seven-figure deal with the Oakland A’s in 2016, Lazaro Armenteros had plenty of eyes on him during his pro debut season. He lived up to expectations with a strong showing in Rookie ball. Can he make the leap to full-season ball in 2018?
Thanks to a hype video posted by his agents, the outfielder better known as Lazarito was one of the most well-known international amateur free agents in the 2016 July 2nd class. The A’s signed the native of Cuba for a reported $3 million. He was the headliner in a July 2nd class that netted the A’s several top international prospects.
Lazarito came to the US in the fall of 2016 for Instructional League and 2017 spring training, but he didn’t make his official pro debut until last June, when he suited up for six games with the A’s Dominican Summer League team. He collected only three hits in 18 at-bats in the DSL, but the A’s were using his stint there only as a tune-up and he came Stateside for the start of the Arizona Rookie League season.
Lazarito got off to a slow start with the AZL A’s, and on July 31st, he was hitting only .241/.343/.366. However, a torrid month of August got Lazarito’s number up considerably. In 16 August games, he hit .339/.438/.581 with nine extra-base hits. Not surprisingly, Lazarito walked more often and struck-out less in August than he did in July, when he struggled to the tune of a .213/.286/.388 line. Lazarito finished his first professional season with a .276/.377/.443 line in 47 Rookie ball games.
Coming out of spring training, the A’s coaching staff was impressed with Lazarito’s approach at the plate and his ability to wait for his pitch. As the season wore on, he would lose that focus at the plate at times, but when he was locked in, he flashed above-average plate discipline for a hitter of his age and experience.
A’s minor league hitting coach Eric Martins worked with Lazarito during the A’s Fall Instructional League and he saw a similar pattern with Lazarito: outstanding discipline when focused, but the focus wasn’t always consistent.
“The focus the first couple of weeks of Instructional League was really good. The last couple of weeks, he kind of went backwards a little bit,” Martins said in a post-Instructs interview. “But definitely you saw the plate discipline, the bat speed, there is some raw power there. It looks like he is going to be a hitter. He likes to stay inside the baseball.
“But the most impressive part to me is that he didn’t really swing at bad pitches. He was able to foul some pitches off and grind out some at-bats.”
A’s minor league hitting coordinator Jim Eppard liked what he saw from Lazarito overall last season and was impressed with how the 18-year-old made adjustments a year removed from his stint in Instructs in 2016.
“He loves to play the game. He has made tremendous strides from a year ago. He was always way around the ball, hooking balls and way out in front of breaking balls,” Eppard said in an Instructs interview. “He’s made significant adjustments. I think he could sit in the middle of the order – three, four, five – and be very productive. He’s able to hit balls into right field, into that opposite field gap, and he has some power to left field. Another guy that I just really like and the more he plays, I think the more I am going to like him.”
Although still just 18, Lazarito is a physical specimen. He is a tightly muscled 6’1’’, 185 and his physique is reminiscent of a defensive back. At the plate, Lazarito has strong, quick hands that help him whip the bat through the hitting zone. He can fight off pitches for hits into the opposite field and has shown flashes of power to right field, as well. Although his day-to-day approach to the game is still developing, he has demonstrated an advanced understanding of the game and the potential to have a plan and stick to it in his at-bats.
Lazarito has above-average speed, which he used to beat out six infield hits in 2017. He gets out of the box quickly and takes little time reaching top speed down the line. Defensively, he is still developing his route techniques, but he has shown a solid arm and has the speed to play in center, although he spent more time in left field last season as A’s 2017 top pick Austin Beck got the majority of the reps in center.
If Lazarito has a strong spring, he is likely to spend the majority of the 2018 season with Low-A Beloit. The Midwest League will be a challenge for Lazarito, especially during the dog days of the middle of the summer, but he looks ready to take that next step.
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