First baseman Matt Olson is currently ranked as the A’s overall-best prospect. The 21-year-old slugger is known for his power and ability to take walks, and he’s not too far away from making a major impact on the Oakland Athletics.
Olson led the High-A California League in walks last season, taking 117 free passes. The next highest total was 88, which is an astonishing margin to lead by. His 37 home runs also led the league, six more than the Angels’ Dennis Raben had. He scored a league-high 111 runs, and ranked third in RBIs, with 97.
If Olson’s numbers with the Stockton Ports aren’t impressive, it’s hard to think of anything that is. Even with 137 strikeouts, Olson was quite possibly the most intimidating batter in the entire league, and he’s continued to have similar success this season.
More from White Cleat Beat
- Oakland A’s add needed bullpen piece in Trevor May
- Garrett Acton could become key piece in Oakland A’s bullpen
- The stark difference between Oakland A’s, San Francisco Giants
- Jace Peterson – the Oakland A’s new super utility option
- Oakland A’s sign intriguing catcher Yohen Pozo
While his .233 average might be a reason to pause and consider whether 2015 could truly be considered a good campaign, his on-base percentage is a more accurate representation of what he’s capable of. Olson has a .376 OBP and a .764 OPS, after walking 74 times in the first half. He’s also hit nine home runs in a much more pitcher-friendly park than the one he played in while with Stockton. In fact, Olson’s season is going well enough that he represented the Ports in the Texas League All-Star Game.
Midland is notoriously hard to hit in, but Olson is doing everything he can to bridge the gap. It’s taken him some time to make the adjustment to both the ballpark and the tougher pitching, but he is making progress.
Players like Ike Davis and Billy Butler are blocking Olson’s path to the big leagues at the moment, but fans should not expect him until late next season anyway – and that’s at the very earliest. During his first two seasons, Olson played nothing but first base. Last year, he had nine appearances in the outfield. In 2015, he’s played 27 games in the outfield so far, and it appears that the A’s like what they see there.
While Olson isn’t fast, his bat might be more useful if he can play as both a corner outfielder and a first baseman, much like Brandon Moss did. Moss certainly doesn’t walk as much, but their power is very similar, as is their propensity for strikeouts.
Those defensive adjustments are one of the reasons Olson finds himself with the Midland Ports, rather than in Triple-A Nashville. He’s made three errors at first base, but he also made two as the right fielder. In 66 outfield chances, he’s completed an out only 59 times. That shows that he still has plenty of room to grow as an outfielder, and the Oakland Athletics are best served by letting him get as much experience as possible. The more diverse of a fielder Olson becomes, the more he’ll be able to help the big league club when he arrives.