Are the Texas Rangers Making a Mistake Calling Up Mike Olt Before Triple-A?
Shortly after their exciting, 11-10, walk-off win over the Angels on Wednesday night, the Texas Rangers announced they were calling up Mike Olt from Double-A Frisco, where he batted .288/.398/.579 with 28 home runs in 95 games.
Despite the offensive outburst last night, the Rangers’ offense has been scuffling over the past month. In July, they collectively batted .243/.309/.375 in 23 games—well below the team average—and scored only 81 runs.
Therefore, the decision to recall Olt, who is regarded as one of the top power prospects in the game, is a move that will hopefully jumpstart the offense. And yes, it's completely appropriate to say his name in the same vein as Steve Holt's in 'Arrested Development.' I do, every time.
Selected by the Rangers with the 49th overall pick in the 2011 draft, there’s a chance that Olt would have already reached the major leagues had he not suffered a broken collarbone and missed the second half of the 2011 season.
However, the 6’2”, 210-pounder hardly missed a beat, posting a 1.197 OPS in the Arizona Fall League while belting a league-best 13 home runs in only 27 games. At the beginning of July, Olt was selected to play for the U.S. squad in the prestigious XM Futures Games.
Ranked as the No. 29 prospect in baseball in Prospect Pipeline’s Midseason Top 50 Prospects, Olt, 23, is much more than just an all-or-nothing slugger.
He possesses excellent plate discipline, registering a 16 percent walk rate in 2011 and 14.5 percent this season at Double-A. At the same time, the right-handed hitter does notch his fair share of strikeouts, posting nearly a 24 percent strikeout rate in back-to-back seasons.
He doesn’t make an overwhelming amount of contact, but when he does, it’s barreled and driven with authority to all fields. It’s doubtful that Olt will hit for a high average, but something in the .260-.275 range is conceivable given his ability to discern balls from strikes.
An above-average defender with smooth actions, good instincts and a plus arm, Olt also offers considerable defensive value at the hot corner. Furthermore, he’s also received reps at both first base and in right field over the last month—a strong indication that the Rangers are aggressively trying to work his bat into their lineup.
Even though it defies logic that the Rangers would promote him (from Double-A nonetheless) to a big-league bench role, it’s hard to see Olt receiving everyday playing time.
However, his newfound versatility will definitely increase his potential playing time, even if it’s only in a platoon role. Over the last two seasons, Olt has crushed left-handed pitching to the tune of a 1.024 OPS with a .328 ISO (16 home runs) in 233 plate appearances.
If he’s successful in that role, it won’t be long before he receives consistent playing time—especially given the offensive woes of Michael Young.
While most people were expecting Olt to be promoted when the rosters expand in September, his ahead-of-schedule promotion is a bit surprising. So will the fact that he’s bypassing Triple-A hurt his production in the major leagues?
As always, there’s a chance that the caliber of pitching—more specifically, the advanced offspeed offerings that he’ll now see—will cause him to struggle. However, given his advanced plate discipline, I don’t foresee him being overwhelmed or unable to make adjustments. Let’s just say he’s in much better shape entering his big-league debut than Will Middlebrooks, whose plate discipline was lacking at Triple-A earlier this season.
From a hitting perspective, Olt’s swing and approach are consistent, as he possesses a feel for the strike zone while understanding his own limitations as a hitter. Even though he’s one of the more polished hitters in the minor leagues, he’ll still be forced to make continual adjustments over the remainder of the season—assuming he’s up for good.
Olt is ready to contribute in the major leagues and could provide the boost that the Rangers' offense desperately needs.
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