When I was young I knew everything
Learning to anticipate the struggles of a rookie is a difficult thing to do. I watch prospects fail every year. Some of them with obvious flaws that get exploited, and others who are seemingly prepared but just don't perform. Yet I continue to believe in many of the prospects and am surprised when they fail. This series will look at prospects who stumbled out of the blocks and what a difficult 2012 means going forward. Please note that these will not be all encompassing looks, but merely identifying some aspects of their respective games that may have caused trouble and what I think of them going forward. Today's subject: Mike Olt.
[Not] A punk who rarely took advice
Most of you know Mike Olt as a guy who has a name similar to popular Arrested Development buffoon Steve Holt! But did you know that he is also a talented young baseball player? Probably you did. You probably also knew that Olt entered this year with some buzz and it only grew louder as he abused Double-A pitching by posting an on-base percentage just under .400 and cracking 28 home runs as part of 46 total extra base hits in 421 plate appearances. Olt also gets prospect love for his glove, which is plus at third base, but not plus enough to move Adrian Beltre even an inch. This generally isn't relevant to fantasy, except in this case it's going to decrease Olt's value if he's only going to be eligible in the outfield corners or at first base as opposed to at the hot corner. The book on Olt at the plate was always impressive raw power combined with a good eye at the plate. He's produced a BB% in the double-digits every place he's received more than 15 at-bats. The book also said that Olt's swing, while geared for power, can get long at times and suggested that he was beatable with good, hard stuff. Texas gave us a sneak peek (peep that Stealth Mountain!) of Olt towards seasons end and though he struggled with only 5 hits and 13 strikeouts in 40 plate-appearances, he showed a discerning eye with 5 walks as well.
What made us think that we were wise?
I'll admit, I approached Olt with a certain skepticism when the buzz originally started. I was concerned that he was getting a Texas bump in prospect status. For most people the prospect hype machine relates only to Boston and New York. However, organizations that consistently churn out prospects often receive a bump in the eyes of prospect watchers because it's assumed they can effectively develop their prospects. While the bump is deserved in many cases, it doesn't apply to everyone and I was trying to figure out if Olt was the recipient of unwarranted hype. Clearly, Olt proved that he was legitimate in 2012 and that all the talk about him in the off-season was earned. However, the issues in the scouting reports that raised question on Olt still persist, even as he dominated Double-A. Despite good bat speed, Olt doesn't boast an above-average hit tool. He can struggle with contact at times, and there are exploitable holes in his swing. So while there is little to be gained from analyzing all of 40 plate appearances by Olt at the major league level, it is fair to wonder if his struggles there were just small sample size error or more advanced pitching taking advantage of his weaknesses.
I cannot believe [h]e'd ever die for these sins
Speaking of that small sample size, Olt is spending his offseason playing with Licey in the Dominican Winter League trying to forget his short stint in the majors. While it was certainly a poor offensive showing, it is unlikely to affect Olt's status in the organization. The biggest thing that Olt could have done was prove to the Rangers that he could play a passable outfield in the event that Josh Hamilton leaves. While his best and most valuable position is third base, Olt's best shot at playing time will come in the outfield and at first base. It might just be that the Rangers have to live with an elevated strikeout rate from Olt, but I would anticipate that they send him to Triple-A to begin 2013 to work on reducing the holes in his swing. I don't think that Olt will be undone as a prospect or player even with his current swing mechanics, but it would make the road to success that much tougher.
I won't be held responsible
My biggest fear for Olt going forward is that the holes in his swing get exploited by the higher quality of pitching in the major leagues. He has the tools to be an average third baseman going forward, but it's important to keep perspective on him. While he is a highly regarded prospect, he is unlikely to ever match the numbers he recorded at Double-A in 2012. Similar to Anthony Gose who was profiled previously, Olt is likely to enjoy a career in the major leagues thanks to the above-average defense he provides. Unlike Gose however, Olt is going to need to diversify his defensive eligibility and produce with the stick to be fantasy relevant in 2013. One situation I've failed to mention so far would be an Adrian Beltre injury, which is all but guaranteed, though Beltre has done a decent job of staying healthy the last couple years. Despite my love of prospects, I do try to shy away from them in redraft leagues as they often disappoint in value. I expect Olt to be overvalued on draft day and overvalued as a waiver wire add in all situations that are not an extended Beltre injury. He's a worthy addition in dynasty or deep keeper leagues, but I wouldn't anticipate a strong ROI until 2014 at the earliest.
Note: All statistics pulled from FanGraphs
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