The Oakland Athletics selected the contract of Lazaro Armenteros on Friday night, adding him to their 40-man roster. “Lazarito” was signed in July 2016, receiving a $3 million signing bonus from the A’s.
The Cuban outfielder has shown elite raw tools and power in his six minor league seasons. He did not play in 2020. There’s no question about his ability to do damage on contact. The problem is that he strikes out at an alarming rate.
In six seasons, Armenteros has posted a combined 36.5% strikeout rate. At the time of his signing, he was noted as having exceptional raw tools and was expected to blossom into a future major league star. We’ve yet to see that come to fruition.
The A’s have moved Armenteros slowly through the minor league system. He has spent parts of four seasons at High-A. At 24-years-old, Armenteros made his debut at Double-A this year. He played well at Midland, posting a .248/.380/.464 slash line with 14 homers and 10 steals. His 32.8% strikeout rate in 405 plate appearances is his lowest figure since 2017, when he struck out 26.5% of the time in Rookie ball.
The problem isn’t entirely plate discipline. Armenteros walked at a 15.3% clip in Double-A this year, an improvement on his 11.3% career rate. Armenteros still has potential, and the tools are still there.
The most likely route is for Armenteros to start the 2024 season at Triple-A Las Vegas. Having spent the last several weeks against more advanced pitching in the Arizona Fall League, Armenteros struggled to a .167/.360/.167 line with no extra base hits and an 11/19 walk to strikeout rate in 50 plate appearances.
Depending on his performance in 2024, Armenteros could find himself fighting for a job at the major league level. There are currently five other outfielders on the A’s 40-man: JJ Bleday, Seth Brown, Lawrence Butler, Brent Rooker, and Esteury Ruiz. Brown is a potential trade candidate, with Cot’s Contracts projecting him to make $2 million in his first year of arbitration in 2024. Rooker projects to be the A’s starting DH next year.
By protecting Armenteros from the Rule 5 draft in December, the A’s have made it clear that they still believe in the Cuban’s talent and ability to become a useful major league player. Armenteros has another week of opportunity in the desert. The Solar Sox have three more scheduled games before playoffs begin. The Fall League officially ends on November 11th.