STOCKTON, Calif. – Back in 2016, Lazaro Armenteros was one of the most sought-after international free agents on the planet. With scouts comparing the 17-year-old to all-time greats like Bo Jackson and Willie Mays, you can understand why teams were salivating.
The A's ended up winning the bidding war for "Lazarito," signing him to a $3 million bonus. Three years later, Armenteros has taken his talents to Stockton as a member of the High-A Ports.
"I feel pretty good," Armenteros told NBC Sports California through an interpreter. "I'm just working on my batting approach and plate appearances."
Armenteros is still extremely raw at the plate, but his talent is undeniable. In 64 games, he has belted 11 home runs, tied for fifth in the California League. His 42 walks rank second. However, he leads the league with 117 strikeouts in 280 plate appearances.
"Right now, he's a three outcome guy," A's assistant general manager/director of player personnel Billy Owens said. "The ability is there. He's probably one of the fastest guys in the whole California League as well. His body is phenomenal, the speed quotient is there, and the raw power is ridiculous. It's just a matter of him getting at-bats."
Armenteros is slashing .231/.357/.453 for the season and was recently named a California League All-Star. Last year at Class-A Beloit, he posted a slash line of .277/.374/.401 with eight homers and 39 RBI in 79 games.
A's general manaer David Forst loves what he's seen from "Lazarito."
"I think so many different things that Laz can do on the field will jump out you, whether it's running down the line to first, a diving catch in the outfield, or leading the Cal League in homers at one point. There's so much talent there. It's a matter of a young guy like that putting it all together. He's exciting to watch. The staff in Stockton is really putting in a lot of time to get him to understand the game and mature on the field."
Armenteros has a fascinating backstory. He was born in Cuba and lived there until he was 15. In 2015, he defected to Haiti, eventually settling in the Dominican Republic. A year later, he signed with the A's.
"Everything has gone really well, thanks to God," Armenteros said. "Things are great with the (Ports). Everybody's helping each other out."
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MLB Pipeline rates Armenteros as Oakland's fourth-best prospect, behind only Jesús Luzardo, A.J. Puk and Sean Murphy. The A's believe he can one day be an impact player at the major league level.
"He's an exciting guy," Owens said. "For being 20 years old in the California League, to put up 10 homers already, to have 40 walks, and to have that blend of power and speed with the patience is pretty special. He's definitely got a chance to be a 25-homer, 20-steal guy at the top level with an on-base percentage of .350 or above."