The Oakland Athletics’ prospect pool has gone through a whole lot of changes over the past year and half due to the big trades the A’s have made involving many minor leaguers. However, one player who has been able to withstand the farm system rebuild and remain one of Oakland’s top five prospects is first baseman Matt Olson.
The year Olson was drafted (2012), the A’s had three out of the first 50 picks. Olson was lucky enough to be earn one of those three spots along with shortstop prospects Addison Russell and Daniel Robertson. Additionally, all were drafted straight out of high school. Out of those three, Olson is the only one that has not been traded yet. Even though Olson’s MLB organization has not changed over the past few years, his fielding position may go through a major shift in the next season or two.
Olson is currently the A’s No. 2 prospect behind shortstop Franklin Barreto. Olson is well known for his power bat and is one of the A’s top hitting prospects. In his first full season in Double-A this year, Olson’s numbers dipped slightly at the plate and he only hit .249/.388/.438 with a .826 OPS. Even though he tends to swing-and-miss quite a lot, he also draws a lot of walks – 105 this season in 133 games played.
While Olson has worked on strengthen his bat as he moves up the farm system ladder, he has also started to shift from fielding at first base to the outfield. When Olson was first drafted, he exclusively played at first in 2012 and 2013. However, in 2014, he started to test his fielding skills in the outfield – playing a combined total of nine games in right and left field.
Come 2015, Olson split his fielding time between first base and the outfield. He played a total of 62 games at first and 59 in right field. Even though his fielding percentage in right field is not as high as it is at first base, it is still a respectable .974 in that position.
Even though the A’s are planning on signing Josh Reddick to a long term contract soon, could they also be prepping Olson to eventually take over Reddick’s spot in right? Reddick is only 28 years old, but he is injury prone, so it would not be surprising for the A’s to only sign him to a two- or three-year contract. Until then, Olson could be the backup outfielder and he would get the opportunity to shadow a Gold Glove outfielder.
Additionally, Mark Canha is currently slotted as the Oakland Athletics’ starting first baseman on their depth chart. That being said, it is not expected that Canha will be the everyday starter at first in 2016. But, if Canha excels in the MLB and ends up earning that position in a year or two, it would definitely make sense to start conditioning Olson as an outfielder since first will be occupied for a much longer period of time than right field.
Olson could possibly make his big league debut next year as a September call-up, but he probably will not spend a full season in the Majors until 2017 since he has not advanced above Double-A yet. It will be interesting to see how he evolves as an outfielder this upcoming year and how it may affect Oakland’s outfield in the future.