With the end of the Billy Butler era in Oakland, the Athletics have promoted first baseman/outfielder Matt Olson and third baseman Renato Nunez to the major league roster. We covered Nunez earlier this afternoon. Let's examine Olson.
Olson was drafted by the Athletics in the compensation first round of the 2012 draft from high school in Lilburn, Georgia. He was drafted for his combination of power and patience and he's produced as expected: 23 homers and 72 walks in Low-A in 2013, 37 homers and 117 walks in High-A in 2014, and 17 homers and 105 walks in Double-A in 2015. Here's how things looked entering 2016, from the Baseball Prospect Book.
Matt Olson, 1B-OF, Oakland Athletics
Bats: L Throws: R HT: 6-4 WT: 235 DOB: March 29, 1994
2013: Grade B-; 2014: Grade C+; 2015: Grade B+
Matt Olson’s profile hasn’t changed much over the last three years: he is a very patient power masher, a true outcome hitter with high output in homers, walks, and strikeouts. That’s been his pattern since he was drafted (supplemental first round, 2012) and that seems unlikely to change. The Texas League is not as friendly for hitting as it was in the old days and his .249/.388/.438 slash line there was still good for a 132 wRC+. He’s a very solid first baseman and also a very competent corner outfielder with a strong arm; he even played two games at third base for Midland without embarrassing himself, which says good things about his general athleticism despite the lack of stolen bases or big speed. Olson is holding steady with a Grade B+. There are still some questions about contact at the highest levels but the Double-A adaptation went well and he begins 2016 at age 22.
The general pattern remained the same in 2016: he hit 17 homers with 71 walks in 464 at-bats for Triple-A Nashville, on the way to a .235/.335/.422 line. He also whiffed 132 times in 464 at-bats and his wRC+ was below past standards at 102, slightly better than PCL average but not great for a corner guy.
Olson is primarily a pull hitter although not 100% exclusively; three of his homers were hit the opposite way this year. He has very significant issues against left-handed pitching, hitting just .167/.262/.250 against southpaws. He was much better against right-handers at .256/.356/.475 and 16 of his 17 homers came against them. He is more prone to chasing breaking balls or getting tied up by inside fastballs against lefties. Against right-handers he looks more confident and better able to make adjustments quickly. In contrast to Renato Nunez, Olson is highly-selective, to the point that some scouts think he needs to be more aggressive early in the count.
Defensively, he's developed into an above-average first baseman, perhaps even excellent. Although not a stolen base threat, he runs pretty well for a big guy and can handle the corner outfield spots without trouble.
As with Nunez, Olson could use more Triple-A time to refine his game and it remains to be seen how he fits into Oakland's plans. Don't expect high batting averages, but he should be productive in other ways in the long run. I'd give him a Grade B at the moment, the main concern being that he may end up as a platoon player.