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Introducing the new Braves: Hector Olivera and Zack Bird

Who did the Braves get in return for Wood, Peraza, Johnson and Avilan?

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

When the Alex Wood-Jim Johnson- Jose Peraza deal was beginning to break over social media, Braves fans were understandably concerned. To give up one of the organization's top prospects plus a strong lefty arm in the rotation in Alex Wood as well as the Braves most easily moved trade piece in Jim Johnson, one would hope the return would be very substantial. As of right now, that return includes the highly touted Hector Olivera (an international signee from Cuba last year) and pitching prospect Zach Bird.

Hector Olivera

Hector Olivera was a huge international target for the Braves, but they weren't able to get their hands on him as the Dodgers just had more money to offer. They were of course ecstatic to get another opportunity to acquire him. He is an older player-He turned 30 in April, but after putting up a .912 OPS in 10 seasons in the Cuban National League he has put up similarly great numbers in the minor leagues stateside. He has spent significant time on the DL this year, missing time from June 20 to July 7 with a grade 1 hamstring strain and then reinjuring himself on July 13-an injury from which he has not returned. When he has spent time in the lineup he put up an .885 OPS. He has had injury issues in the past-he was rumored to have a UCL injury though I believe that has been proved incorrect and was also on blood thinners for a while due to a blood clot in his left arm. Olivera saw a major dip in ISO after his blood clot, a trend that has transferred over to the minor leagues.

Not much stock should be put into this as he is much older than his competition, but his above average natural hitting ability and skill to play third base that makes him a perfect fit for a depleted Braves lineup. He has a nice, athletic frame at 6'2" 220lbs, but has clearly maxed out his power and projects to be roughly a 15-20 home run hitter. He has a solid approach at the plate, and has a good feel for the bat head and good bat speed, allowing him to hit for a high average. He has very simple movements at the plate, though like many Cuban hitters he wraps his bat on setup. He can go opposite field with good pop, and has the athleticism and speed to play second base if needed and hit at the top of the order. He is a solid all around player who should make an impact in Atlanta almost immediately upon return from injury. I would trust the Braves scouts on Olivera as they were clearly very high on him in the offseason and their track record is fantastic with international prospects. I do however question if he has the long term value that Peraza and Wood would provide.

Hector Olivera's advanced breakdown via

Kiley McDaniel on Hector Olivera

Zack Bird

Bird throws a lot of fly balls (33.19%) but has managed to somehow keep the ball in the park in the hitter friendly California League (7.9% HR/FB). He has had a high K Rate through the minor leagues, and his fastball should allow him to continue that trend as he climbs the ladder. His performance professionally has been wholely underwhelming, as his 4.77 career ERA doesn't scream prospect, but he has decent top end projectability and if he can cut the walk rate to somewhere around 9% (from 12% career) should allow him to be significantly better. He has an above 20% K rate and a career .245 batting average against, so he only has the one box to really tick off at this point.

Bird has a tall, projectable frame and a good fastball that is good enough to make him a legitimate prospect. He is raw in other areas of the game and walks more than 4.5 batters per game. Control is his main issue, and projects to be below average even with improvement, but a fastball that at times approached the upper 90's.  in 2014 jumped off of the page for many scouts. He has good life on the fastball and it serves as a good swing and miss pitch.  He is very inconsisent in the use of his lower body, often landing at completely different points from pitch to pitch. He occasionally drags his push leg rather than properly following through, and has a very off balance landing in which he falls off to his left hard. There is some stiffness in his upper body during his delivery, and tends to drag his arm, which is a major concern. He has some effort to his delivery, so he may project as a bullpen arm, but has the elite athleticism and a durable frame that may allow him to overcome that.

He is an good athlete (6,83 60 in HS) and that should allow him to take well to any tweaks the Braves try to make to his delivery. He throws 3 off speed pitches- the most advanced of which is his slider and while it is unlikely, he may be able to develop all of those to average offerings. The slider has good bite and has shown above average potential at times, and the 12-6 curve and change have shown fringe average potential. The changeup is the more advanced of those offerings and provides a good third option which has allowed him to have success against left handers this year.  Time is on this prospect side, and he has to this point advanced a level a year. His athleticism and improving abilities make it possible that he could be poised for a breakout at AA in 2016, at which point he would be firmly planted as a prospect to watch

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