Q&A: Mike Olt, Power on the Texas Pine

From April through July, Mike Olt was the most prodigious slugger in the minor leagues. The former University of Connecticut star hit .288/.398.579, with 28 home runs, for Double-A Frisco. His power explosion helped prompt Baseball America to rank the right-handed-hitting corner infielder 11th on its midseason top-prospect list. It also prompted a call-up to the big leagues.

Since debuting for the Texas Rangers, on Aug. 2, the 24-year-old has mostly languished on the bench, logging just 39 plate appearances. There is little doubt that he has a bright future. Whether his development was advanced or hindered by riding the Texas pine — instead of getting regular playing time in Triple-A — is the question.

Olt talked about his whirlwind season, including the call-up and his emergence as a power hitter, when the Rangers visited Fenway Park in August.


Olt on playing in this summer’s All-Star Futures Game: “It was obviously a great game to be a part of. There was a lot of talent on that field, and being there, competing with them, gives you the confidence that you belong. I hit the ball hard three out of four times and that had me feeling like I could compete at any level.

“I knew that I was getting closer to the big leagues, but I still felt that I had some things to work on. Playing in the Futures Game definitely had me making sure to keep pushing myself every day to get better.”

On hearing his name in trade-deadline rumors: “Everyone was saying that it must be hard to deal with that, but it really wasn’t. I knew that it was a win-win for me. If I got traded, there was going to be something good for me in that organization. And if it didn’t, I knew that I was already in a great organization with a winning atmosphere. If I stayed here, I was going to be a part of something special, and whatever happened was going to happen. I mostly just blocked it all out.”

On getting promoted from Double-A: “I was very surprised, despite the fact that some things were happening in Frisco. I played first base a couple of games in a row, which had never happened. Even so, I thought they were calling me into the office to basically tell me my situation. Instead, they said, ‘Hey, you’re getting called up to the big leagues and you’re facing C.J. Wilson.’ It was a huge surprise. It was also a great feeling.

“When I walked into the locker room that first day, everyone came up and congratulated me. They made me feel at home. That’s a huge thing, because I don’t think it happens on a lot of teams. I was able to kind of just settle in, and once I got onto the field — and into the batter’s box — I was even more comfortable.”

On evolving as a hitter: “When I first signed, I was standing straight up. I was almost like Evan Longoria. That was how I hit my junior year of college. I was up tall and very narrow. My feet were probably a foot apart from each other. I did well in college — I was fine at that level — but my goal wasn’t to do well in college. We made some adjustments, widening out my stance and shortening up my swing. That started happening during the middle of my first year, at [class Low-A] Spokane, and then in spring training we really got after it.

“I didn’t really change the way I swing. As much as you want to teach different swings, you can kind of just change your stance. The way you swing is the way you’ve swung for your whole life.”

On being a power hitter: “I wouldn’t label myself as a power hitter. I’ve just been able to hit some balls out of the park. I’d prefer to say that I’m getting better as an all-around hitter. When I try to hit home runs, I never do. When I don’t try is when I really lock in and focus on getting a good pitch to hit. That’s when I do well.

“I would say that I’ve learned how to hit for power in certain spots. There are certain times when you’re set up to hit for power and there are certain times when you need to do a job. I learned how to pick and choose my spots.

“Hitting for power is a matter of being patient and understanding what a pitcher is trying to do. I’d say that this is the first year I got mentally into the game of hitting, as far as picking up on what pitchers are doing and what’s working for them in certain counts, early in the game. I’m seeing if they’re continuing in that pattern and adjusting from there. It‘s all about development.”

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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from February 2006-March 2011 and is a regular contributor to several publications. His first book, Interviews from Red Sox Nation, was published by Maple Street Press in 2006. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.