Olt not satisfied with opening month

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Although Mike Olt is off to a strong start at Double-A Frisco––hitting .267 with seven home runs in his first 28 games––he isn't yet satisfied with his progress. Lone Star Dugout features and interviews the slugging 23-year-old prospect.

Through his first 28 games for the Frisco RoughRiders, Texas Rangers corner infield prospect Mike Olt has posted a .267/.374/.543 slash line with six doubles, a triple, and seven home runs. He has also drawn 18 walks and struck out 33 times.

During the following interview, Olt speaks as if he's in a slump. But the 23-year-old prospect is off to a pretty strong start in Double-A. He currently ranks among the Texas League top 10 in home runs, slugging percentage, and runs batted in––not bad for a prospect who'd played only 142 regular-season professional games before earning the Double-A assignment.

But there is still definite room for improvement. His strikeout totals––which have been a tick high through his pro career thus far––remain high in the early going this season. In his first 123 plate appearances, Olt has a strong 14.6 percent walk rate but with a 26.8 percent strikeout rate.

He's coming off an Arizona Fall League campaign in which he batted .349 with a league-leading 13 home runs (but also 36 strikeouts) in 27 contests.

Armed with fantastic bat speed, the former supplemental first-round pick has the physical tools to hit for both average and power. Frisco hitting coach Jason Hart says, for now, it's about getting Olt more at-bats against quality pitching.

"I think (Olt) is off to the start we were hoping for," Hart said. "It's only going to hopefully get better from there. He's just going to keep improving. He's going to get more maturity. The more at-bats he gets, he's going to become a better hitter."

Hart believes the key to Olt's further development will stem from staying loose at the plate.

"With Olt, it's just staying loose," he said. "Just staying loose and getting ready to hit on time because those hands are lightning fast. So if he gets ready on time, he can use them."

Already an above-average third baseman with smooth actions, good range and a plus arm, Olt began getting brief looks at first base during spring training this year.

The UConn product projects to be ready for the major leagues at some point in 2013, and the Rangers already have Gold Glove third baseman Adrian Beltre locked up. But there's a little more uncertainty at first, where Mitch Moreland has been a passable-but-inconsistent producer over the last two seasons.

So far this season, Olt has appeared in 26 games at third base and two at first base. He's committed three errors (.956) at the hot corner while playing errorless ball in his first 20 chances at first.

Olt's instincts at third base are excellent, and that should translate across the diamond at first. Although he's played the position in just a handful of games since the beginning of spring training, he has the athletic ability and quickness to become an above-average defender at either corner position.

Lone Star Dugout caught up with the prospect to discuss his start to the season and his work at first base.

Also See: Olt getting a taste of the majors (March 4, 2012)
Frankie Piliere's Mike Olt AFL scouting report

Jurickson Profar doubles, Mike Olt homers at Corpus Christi (best viewed in full screen and HD).

Jason Cole: Tell me about your first two at-bats today. You had the back-to-back doubles in the gap.

Mike Olt: I was seeing the ball better today. I think a lot of it is that my timing is getting a little bit better. I was able to get some pitches up in the zone. He left a curveball up. And then I got into a good count––2-0––and was looking for something hard and away. He threw it there, and I was able to make solid contact.

Cole: How do you feel you've performed in your first month-plus of Double-A ball?

Olt: I didn't do as well as I wanted to. There have been definitely a lot of things that I need to improve on. But I learned a lot. I know how pitchers are throwing to me. I understand certain situations. I'm looking at different pitches now. It's a big step for me to get to the next level––starting to understand that. So that's the positive.

Cole: Obviously the power and walks have been there for you so far this season. Now, what needs to happen in order for you to maybe get the average up there and cut down on the strikeouts?

Olt: It's just going to come with my understanding pitchers and what they're doing. Now, the scouting reports come out and I'm obviously going to know how to study those a little bit better. I need to work on being aggressive early in the count. I'm patient a lot, but in the beginning of the count, I like to become more aggressive, because those are the pitches that are good to hit. That's going to help me get going.

Cole: In such a small league, with only eight teams, you see teams quite a bit throughout the season. What is it like for you, as a hitter, to see the same pitcher so often?

Olt: It's challenging because they do pick up on certain tendencies or certain weaknesses in your swing. You've just got to continue to make adjustments with what they're doing. If they're able to exploit something, you've got to be able to counteract and make an adjustment on it. That's something that we're starting to pick up now.

Cole: You played your second regular-season game at first base today. Obviously you played there some in spring training, as well. How do you feel at first base?

Olt: I'm definitely getting better at it. I feel better going out there. I'm getting better around the bag, which helps. Other than that, it's just kind of getting the feel for it right now. But I think it is definitely coming along well.

Cole: When you played with the Rangers in the exhibition game against Mexico City, you got to make a diving play going toward the first base line. Was that a point where the corner instincts just took over?

Olt: Yeah, exactly. I wasn't thinking at all. That was something that just happens. Obviously it's good to be in the corner and have some reactions––that helps. But it was definitely a different experience, diving that way.

Cole: Have they told you anything about how often you're going to be playing first base? Or are you just coming in and checking the lineup card each day?

Olt: I'm not really sure what the plan is. Basically, I just bring the glove and if I'm in there, I'm in there. If I'm not, I'm not.

Cole: I assume you're taking a few ground balls at first base, as well.

Olt: I try to mix it in at least once a week––try to get over there and some ground balls.

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