There aren’t too many hitters in the Midwest League hotter than Skye Bolt and Brett Siddall from the Beloit Snappers, as the duo just wrapped up a stellar road trip by battering Burlington Bees pitching.
For the centerfielder Bolt, a fourth-round pick of Oakland’s in last year’s draft, the month of April has been a welcome sight after he scuffled at times last summer during his short-season debut at Vermont. The former North Carolina standout went 5-for-12 playing in three of the Snappers’ four games against the Bees, including a homer on Sunday.
“A good challenge that really set the tone was that cold weather,” said Bolt, who was born in Georgia but grew up playing in colder conditions in Indiana. “We’re playing in snow two games and it’s 35 to 45 degrees and nobody wants to be playing in it, whether you’re from up North or wherever.
“If you can get your mind straight and deal with that adversity, that’s something that carries into the better parts of the spring when the weather starts to pick up. The hands start to thaw out and the ball starts to carry a little bit better.”
That it has for Bolt, who over his last 10 games has 16 hits in 40 at-bats to push his season slash line to .345/.426/.500. Of his 20 hits, six have gone for extra bases and his BB:K rate is 7:11.
“That first month is really the tone-setter for a lot of guys, especially the position players in getting their season going,” he said. “That weather and little bit of adversity is a testament to a strong mind. If you can get over that, then that warm weather in the spring is only a bonus.”
After signing with the A’s following his junior season as a Tar Heel, Bolt was sent directly to Vermont where he spent the duration of the summer.
He got off to a solid start with the Lake Monsters, collecting three extra-base hits over his first six games. But injuries and inconsistency over the next several weeks slowed Bolt down. During the final 17 games of the season, Bolt showed signs of matching his production to his talent by slashing .333/.455/.519 with five extra-base hits. The late surge pushed his final line to .238/.325/.381.
The daily grind of playing the game of baseball was the biggest adjustment, says Bolt.
“The biggest transition from any level of baseball that you played before pro baseball, is that you’re suiting up and cleating up every day,” Bolt said. “You’ve got to get yourself mentally prepared to attack each at-bat and not give any away. Those fourth, fifth and sometimes sixth at-bats of a game a lot of times can be a deal breaker in how you perform.
“More so it’s just the mental mindset of how you carry into the next day. Start your own engine. Figure out a way to get your own engine going. Once you do, make sure you’re conscious of what’s either working or not working, so you can continue to compile on that each and every day.”
Along with several of the A’s top prospects that were drafted last June, Bolt was invited to the A's fall Instructional League camp following his stint in Vermont. In Arizona, he felt he got the attention needed to put himself on the right track for 2016.
“I’ll stick with the word ‘consistency’,” Bolt said. “For me it was the left side of the dish. How can we get it more consistent from a setup, to my load and to my swing path? And then defensively, I’ve always been an aggressive guy that likes to run the ball down and throw the ball. Now it’s learning to manage your situations. I’m the furthest guy away from the action most of the time, so it’s not my job to enforce the outs. It’s my job to get it to the middle infield guys and let them play with the ball.”
Although he’s off to a good start with the Snappers, Bolt knows that he’ll eventually face the adversity that comes every season and how he handles that will define his first full professional season.
“You’re only going to see less and less pitches to hit as you go up the ladder,” he said. “It goes back to being locked in every day and each at-bat, and more specifically every pitch. You may only get one pitch an at-bat to hit. You may not get one at all. You might get three pitchers pitches and one umpire pitch. You’ve got to lock in.
“The difference in performance is a little bit of your swing and how you’re feeling, and whether you’re fouling that pitch off, missing it or barreling it up like you’re supposed to. The rest is all in your hands, but you give a little bit more of that edge to the pitcher if you don’t get your pitch.”
If the 22-year old keeps up his current pace, it might not be too long before he earns a promotion to High-A Stockton.