One of the A’s top minor leaguers received quite a dose of praise Friday.
Matt Olson was ranked the No. 2 first base prospect in the majors in position rankings conducted by MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo. Only Pirates prospect Josh Bell (who was strictly an outfielder until recently) ranked higher on the first base list.
Olson -- a 6-foot-5, 230-pounder who turns 21 in March –- hit 37 home runs last season for Single-A Stockton to rank third among all minor league hitters. He hit .262, drove in 97 runs and posted a .947 OPS that ranked fourth in the California League.
Olson was part of a trio of top picks for Oakland in the 2012 draft, along with shortstops Addison Russell and Daniel Robertson. Russell and Robertson have since been traded, and 2013 first-round pick Billy McKinney, an outfielder, was packaged in the same deal as Russell to the Cubs. With all the news about the marquee prospects the A’s have shipped out, it’s a positive development for the farm system that one of the remaining top names is getting such recognition.
MLB.com actually ranks Olson as Oakland’s top prospect while Baseball America has shortstop Franklin Barreto ranked above him.
Some might look at Olson – the power, the position, the size – and immediately think of Chris Carter, another highly touted A’s prospect who mashed his way through the minors and was dealt to Houston after a couple of big league stints with Oakland. Olson, like Carter, racks up the strikeouts. He’s whiffed 285 times over the past two seasons combined.
But Olson also brings a terrific eye for the strike zone. He led the minors last season with 117 walks. A’s officials also like his quickness and footwork around the bag defensively at first.
As of now, Olson is not on the list of players invited to major league camp. But the A’s occasionally bring over young players from minor league camp to provide depth during split-squad Cactus League games. He figures to begin this season with Double-A Midland.
Friday’s story mentioned that Olson is included on MLB.com’s list of Top 100 overall prospects in the game, though the exact rankings have yet to be released.