The Texas Rangers purchased the contract of prospect Mike Olt from Double-A Frisco on Wednesday night while optioning Brandon Snyder to Triple-A Round Rock.
The 23-year-old University of Connecticut product was the Rangers' supplemental first-round pick (#49 overall) in the 2010 MLB Draft. He becomes the second '10 Rangers draft pick to reach the major leagues––Justin Grimm was the first, doing so earlier this season as a former fifth-round selection.
Olt, who turns 24 later this month, played his debut summer at short-season Spokane, hitting .293/.390/.464 in 69 games. While a broken collarbone (sustained in a home-plate collision) limited him to 69 games with High-A Myrtle Beach last year, he posted a .267/.387/.504 slash line.
The prospect began the 2012 campaign by scuffling in big league camp this spring, going 6-for-33 with two doubles, one triple and two walks and nine strikeouts. But he has continued to progress since being assigned to Double-A Frisco.
In 95 games with the RoughRiders, Olt batted .288/.398/.579 with 17 doubles and a Texas League-leading 28 home runs. He also drew 61 walks while striking out 101 times. His on-base percentage (.398) ranked sixth in the circuit, and he paced the league in both slugging (.579) and OPS (.977).
ESPN's Buster Olney tweeted on Thursday morning that Olt is expected to be in the Rangers' lineup against C.J. Wilson and the Angels for Thursday night's game.
With right-handers Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz both out for the remainder of the 2012 season, the Rangers were perhaps most active in looking for starting pitching help prior to Tuesday's non-waiver trade deadline. But the club was also pursing a right-handed bench bat.
When Texas wasn't able to make a deal for a hitter, it seemed that an Olt call-up was inevitable––the only question was when it would happen.
Although the Rangers haven't yet been specific on Olt's role in Arlington through the remainder of this year, his primary duty will likely be to provide some power off the bench. His versatility in the field also helps. A natural third baseman, Olt also appeared in 13 games at first base and three in right field with Frisco this season.
Rangers GM Jon Daniels told Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning-News that the club intends on taking advantage of Olt's ability to play the four corner positions.
"Here's a good athlete and a baseball player," Daniels told Fraley. "He's going to figure some of those things out. There's going to be a learning curve, but we wouldn't have brought him up if we didn't think he was ready."
Daniels also hinted that Olt is being called up to bolster the bench, saying "We've been looking to strengthen the bench and put our best club out there. Listening to our people, we feel that Mike can help in a role on this team."
In addition to providing more offensive upside than Brandon Snyder––the Rangers' primary right-handed bench option up to this point––Olt is unquestionably a superior defender. With a definite plus glove and arm at third base, he lacks experience at the other positions but has handled himself well when playing both first and right field thus far. He's not a plus runner but is a good athlete with the agility and arm strength to succeed in a corner outfield position.
The Rangers have also stated that Olt will get more (perhaps significantly more) playing time than Snyder, who had just 16 at-bats in July.
At the plate, Olt has the talent to make an impact down the stretch. The best-case scenario for the Rangers would be to catch lightning in a bottle with Olt––so to speak––as opposing pitchers don't have much of a scouting report on him yet.
While scouts almost unanimously love Olt's future as a power hitter, many are quick to point out that he'll eventually have to make a couple adjustments and could go through some growing pains. Once his scouting report gets around, Olt could begin to see a steady diet of breaking balls, and pitchers will likely begin working him down and away with fastballs. That's what he struggled with at times in the minors, but Double- and Triple-A pitching isn't able to expose it with any consistency––it's an adjustment he'll need to make against major league arms.
Olt will have to make the adjustment eventually, but he has the ability and aptitude to do so. A hard-working prospect with plus-plus makeup, he also has lightning-quick hands that help produce the best bat speed in the Rangers' minor league system––making it much easier and more possible to make adjustments on the fly.
The question is how quickly that cycle, which is normal for any rookie hitter, comes around. Olt could conceivably play the remainder of the season without pitchers fully adjusting to him. While he can show power to both gaps, he got a little pull-happy at times in the minors but crushed fastballs over the plate or on the inner half. There's also the chance that Olt is able to adjust himself if he sees enough playing time.
Despite his excellent bat speed, Olt will likely always have some swing and miss in his game as a power hitter. But at his peak, he could be a corner player who hits .260-.275 with 30-plus home runs, a high walk total, and quite a few strikeouts while also providing strong defense. He's got an average hit tool (5) with plus-plus power (6.5-7, depending on the scout), a plus glove, and a tick below average speed (4).
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