Olson Prepared For The Long Season

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA - The 2013 Beloit Snappers have one of the youngest rosters in the Midwest League, with several players under the age of 21. One of those players is 19-year-old Matt Olson, who enters the season as one of the Oakland A's top prospects. After a strong spring, expectations are high for Olson, who is currently adjusting to the pitcher-friendly Midwest League.

One in a trio of high school first-rounders selected by Oakland in last year's amateur draft, Beloit first baseman Matt Olson is still finding his way in the early stages of his professional career. And there aren't many tougher environments for a 19-year-old slugger than the Midwest League during the first week of April.

The sweet-swinging 6'4'' lefty, like many of his contemporaries, is off to a slow start in Low-A ball. Olson has just three hits in his first 19 at-bats, including two doubles. He's struck out 11 times while drawing just two walks.

The 47th-overall selection from a high school in Lilburn, Georgia, Olson is taking things in stride and keeping with a simple mindset.

>{?"The approach is always going to be just to barrel balls up," said Olson, who has started in the Snappers' initial five games of the season. "You can't go up to the plate thinking you're going to crush the ball. I've done it in the past and it's never played out well. I need to stay within myself, get a good pitch and barrel it up.

"There's good pitching in this league that's solid all around the 'zone. It's a little different from the Arizona league, where guys are all over the place. It's good competition and I'm anxious to see how I stack up."

The supplemental first-rounder put himself on the organizational fast track with a solid debut in the A's system. In 46 games with the AZL A's, Olson hit .282/.345/.520 with eight homers, 41 RBI and 16 doubles. He received a promotion to short-season Vermont for the final week of the New York-Penn League season, where he had three hits in 11 at-bats, including a homer, and added three walks.

Olson finished second in the rookie league in homers. While the A's projected him as a power-hitter when they drafted him, they were pleasantly surprised to see how quickly he tapped into that power as a pro. Oakland will likely keep the 19-year-old in Low-A for much of the season, so Olson can get his feet wet and get familiar with the rigors of a full-season schedule.

He said that's a good idea, given how taxing last season was between the high school season, amateur draft, professional debut and instructs.

"I wasn't exhausted by the end of last summer, but I could definitely feel how many games I'd played," Olson said. "That made me work a little harder this off-season, to prepare myself for what I'm going to go through.

"I'm really glad I'm in with a full-season team and am ready to see what it all entails. Just the experience from a full season is going to be the biggest help. Going into a half season last year made me realize how much of a grind that a full season is going to be."

While he could have been playing a key role as a true freshman at Vanderbilt, where he had committed as a high school senior, Olson has no regrets about going the professional route.

"My agent told me I was probably going to go around the supplemental [first] round and at that point I figured I'd probably sign," Olson said. "That was good enough to make me surpass my education and playing at Vandy. Things turned out well. I think this is the better path.

"[In the months leading up to the draft] Oakland really sat back and didn't say much. I wasn't that sure they were going to take me. I wanted to get the right opportunity and sign, but I wasn't going to sell myself short. It turned out the right way and I'm glad the Oakland A's picked me up."

Olson and fellow 2012 first-round draft mates Addison Russell and Daniel Robertson have developed quite a friendship early in their careers. Although Russell is a level ahead at High-A Stockton this spring, Robertson should be joining Olson in Beloit sometime soon. Robertson is currently at extended spring training, completing a rehab for an injured knee.

"All three of us get along well together," Olson said. "We lived in Robertson's condo for spring training and hung out all the time. They're great guys and great players. I'm looking to get us three back together soon."

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