How Kansas City Royals' Edward Olivares can establish himself at the big-league level
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In the seventh inning of the Kansas City Royals' win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday night, Edward Olivares came charging into shallow right field with his eyes locked on a low line drive off the bat of Erik Gonzalez and made a sliding catch.
With a runner already on base after a walk, the catch helped keep the Pirates from building any momentum late.
The Royals won 7-3, and the play didn't swing the game. However, it provided a sign of the laser-like focus Olivares has brought to his first full season in what's now his third organization since signing out of Venezuela in 2014.
"A lot of work went into my first step and reacting to the ball off the bat," Olivares said while speaking to reporters about his defense prior to that game.
A 6-foot-2, 190-pound right-handed hitter Olivares joined the major-league roster on Sunday when the Royals optioned right-hander Carlos Hernández to Triple-A. Olivares has gone 4 for 11 (.364) with two runs scored and a stolen base in three games.
Olivares, 25, immediately jumped into the lineup and had two hits in Sunday's win, including the single that started a pivotal four-run fifth inning of a series-clinching win over the Minnesota Twins to wrap-up the recent road trip.
"I'm extremely happy that I helped the team get the win," Olivares said. "I've been working really hard, and I want to continue working hard to establish myself in the big leagues."
Establishing himself remains an overarching goal for Olivares. Last season, Olivares joined the Royals as part of the trade that sent right-handed relief pitcher Trevor Rosenthal to the San Diego Padres on Aug. 29.
Olivares made the Padres' Opening Day roster last season and appeared in 13 major-league games after having played at Double-A in 2019.
He'd been part of a glut of outfield options in the Padres system entering 2020 with Franchy Cordero, Josh Naylor and highly rated prospect Taylor Trammel.
All four players were eventually traded by the Padres last year.
The Royals acquired Cordero during spring training 2.0 in a trade that sent left-handed relief pitcher Tim Hill to the Padres. This winter, the Royals sent Cordero to the Boston Red Sox as part of the three-team trade that brought left fielder Andrew Benintendi to Kansas City.
Olivares appeared in 18 of the Royals' 27 games after the Rosenthal trade. He batted .274 with a .292 on-base percentage and a .419 slugging percentage with a double, a triple two home runs and seven RBIs in his introduction to the Royals.
Olivares' athleticism is undeniable. His natural gifts were part of the reason Royals first base coach/outfield coordinator Rusty Kuntz endorsed Olivares as a trade target in any deal with the Padres last summer.
However, his rawness and rough edges defensively such as inefficient routes to the ball and false first step led Royals manager Mike Matheny to describe Olivares as a "wild stallion" last season.
When the Royals went with Kyle Isbel on their Opening Day roster out of spring training, it only cemented Olivares' desire to prove his readiness and display the work he'd done to improve in the outfield.
While surely a little disappointed not to make the club out of camp, Olivares said he respected the organization's decision, and his torrid start in the minors only bolstered his confidence.
"The team knows what I'm able to do, and I can trust the process," Olivares said. "I understand that the good start helped me get through it, but I know who I am as a player. I'm excited to contribute at this level."
At the time the Royals recalled him, he'd registered at least one hit in 17 of his 20 games, batted .395 (second-best in Triple-A players with 32 hits) with five home runs and 16 RBIs.
He also ranked among Triple-A leaders in total bases (fourth, 53), on-base percentage (.473, sixth) and OPS (1.127, sixth).
"He's got the ability to be a little bit of a catalyst for us," Matheny said of Olivares. "I like what he's doing in the outfield also. He's having a heck of a year, just kind of watching how he was doing each day. He seems to have a great approach. Everything we're hearing from the Triple-A staff was this guy is just standing out right now."