Olt has the power to launch successful career
Prized Rangers prospect shows great promise at the plate
If the offseason reports and trade rumors are true, highly-regarded Texas Rangers prospect Mike Olt was at the center of many conversations.
After having seen Olt play, the interest is totally understandable.
Power is becoming a rare commodity in baseball. Players showing home run potential are highly prized. Mike Olt has the ability to hit with power.
Olt's abilities were recognized when he played shortstop for four years at Branford High School in Connecticut. In fact, Olt was so good, he made the varsity club as a freshman.
A strong and natural athlete, Olt also played basketball in high school.
Olt was also a star in the classroom. He was named a Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT) Scholar. He was a four-year honor student. That's impressive.
Olt was a four-year letter winner at Branford, having been named to the State of Connecticut All State Team three times.
Olt followed his older brother, Brad, to the University of Connecticut, where he first began to play third base. When he left, he was the all-time UConn home run leader, having hit 44 homers in his three years.
The Rangers were in a unique position in the 2010 First Year Player Draft. They had two selections in the first round and two picks in the supplemental first round. Jake Skole (No. 15) Kellin Deglan (No. 22) and Luke Jackson (No. 45) were taken before Olt was announced at No. 49 in the supplemental round.
The right-handed hitting Olt is 6-foot-2, and 210 very solid pounds. He has strength throughout his body. It is that strength -- especially in his hands and forearms -- that translates to game-changing power.
I saw the 24-year old Olt extensively in the 2011 Arizona Fall League. I also got to see him play in the 2012 All-Star Futures Game in Kansas City. I liked what I saw.
Olt's offensive game is built around extremely good pitch recognition and plate discipline. He has the ability to discern balls from strikes, taking pitchers deep in counts and driving the pitches he can handle to all parts of the field. When he does strike out, and that happens with some frequency, it is more often swinging than on a called third strike.
Olt also knows how to accept a walk.
When I saw Olt in Arizona, he was tearing the league apart with the barrel of his bat. He led the league in home runs with 13 and in RBIs with 43. He had a league-best slugging percentage of .764.
Olt played 28 games in Arizona that season. He walked 15 times. His 36 strikeouts were also among the league leaders. He finished the fall hitting .349.
Although he plays both corner infield positions and occasionally in the outfield, Olt played 19 games in Arizona exclusively at third base. He also served as a designated hitter eight times. He made four errors.
Olt has very quick hands that generate backspin on the ball. He hits the type of home runs that leave little doubt of their ultimate destination. Once the ball hits Olt's bat, good things happen. His swing is sweet, and very powerful.
Rarely, if ever, did I see Olt lengthen his stroke to get additional power or distance. His mechanics are very disciplined, a sign of his intelligence and knowledge of the game.
When I saw Olt strike out, it was predominantly on breaking pitches. Slower, offspeed pitches seemed to give him some trouble. While he could follow the trajectory of the ball well, he just flat out missed the pitches. I have little doubt of his ability to continue to adjust to sliders, changeups and curve balls. But make no mistake: he blisters fastballs. Especially cookies a bit inside or those that get too much of the plate.
Olt has finished parts of three Minor League seasons. He began his career hitting .293 with nine homers at low-A Spokane. The following season, Olt hit .267 with 14 home runs and 42 RBIs at high-A Myrtle Beach. He broke his collarbone in the second half of the season, limiting his plate appearances to 292 for the year. It was following that season he exploded in the Arizona Fall League.
Last year was a turning point. Olt hit 28 home runs and drove in 82 runs while hitting .288 in 421 trips to the plate for Double-A Frisco. His outstanding season earned him a call to Texas in September.
For the Rangers, Olt played in 16 games, going to the plate 40 times. He played first base, third base and right field for Texas and hit .152 while driving in five runs.
Olt has the speed of many power hitting big men. That is to say, it's minimal. But it isn't always speed that matters on the bases.
His quickness and base running ability make him a player capable of stealing bases or taking an extra base when needed.
Defensively, Olt is agile enough to play third base. He has a solid arm with good carry on the ball. His range is good and I see very few issues with him being able to play the position with Major League average ability.
Given the fact the Rangers have one of the finest all-around third basemen in the game in Adrian Beltre, when Olt gets a more permanent promotion to Texas, he may play a position other than third base. He may also spend time as a designated hitter.
As a capable athlete and good defender, he will have no problem handling first base or the outfield if called upon.
MLB.com ranks Mike Olt the second-best Rangers prospect.
When I think of Mike Olt hitting at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, I can't help but get excited for Rangers fans.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.