Recently we examined a pair of outfielders from the 2015 MLB draft: Harrison Bader of the St. Louis Cardinals and Christin Stewart of the Detroit Tigers, both off to fast starts in pro ball. Both were products of elite baseball programs, Stewart from the University of Tennessee and Bader from the University of Florida, and both had quick success in the pros.
Another college outfielder in the 2015 draft, Skye Bolt from the University of North Carolina, also merits attention. Like Bader and Stewart, he came from a top program. Bolt's athletic tools are likely the best of the trio, yet his skills as an actual baseball player are more enigmatic.
Bolt had a strong freshman year for the Tar Heels in 2013, hitting .321/.418/.491 with 10 steals and a 32/28 BB/K ratio in 212 at-bats. All of his physical tools were rated as a solid or better, with arm strength, speed, and raw power all ranking very well. He was viewed as a potential first-rounder for 2015. Alas, his 2014 sophomore year wasn't as good (.257/.373/.353). He did steal 11 bases and drew 38 walks but scouts expected more.
He was still seen as a potential first-rounder 12 months ago, just needing a good spring to solidify it. The results were once again mixed: .259/.383/.449. He showed the most isolated power of his college career, hitting 10 homers with a .190 ISO, and he did draw 40 walks. But he wasn't as effective on the bases, swiping just seven, and it was hard to overlook a second-straight sub-.260 batting average. A switch-hitter with good strike zone judgment and plenty of bat speed really shouldn't be hitting .259 in college.
Bolt lasted until the fourth round this past June, selected by the Oakland Athletics. Remember, this is a guy with first-round physical tools. If he puts it together, that's a steal in the fourth round.
However, the early results in pro ball remain enigmatic: .238/.325/.381 with four homers, two steals in three attempts, 24 walks, 44 strikeouts in 181 at-bats in the New York-Penn League. Now, that's actually not as bad as it may look on the surface. The NY-P is pitching-oriented and this was actually slightly above-average production, with a wRC+ of 110. Not great, but not terrible. His Secondary Average of .285 is pretty good, showing more value than the straight batting average would imply. But yeah, not great for a college guy in short-season ball. The enigma continues on defense. Bolt has the range and arm strength to be a fine center fielder but he's rather error-prone at this stage, making eight errors in 46 pro games.
So what do we have here? We really don't know much more than we did a year ago. Bolt has the physical tools to be a regular who contributes in multiple ways, but the skills have yet to come together consistently. It may get better, it may not. It isn't much of an answer but that's the only honest one.
My unsubstantiated prediction is that it does get better eventually, Bolt emerging as someone who can hit .260 but with enough power, walks, speed, and defense to be quite valuable. But that's like, my opinion man.