Athletics' No. 5 overall prospect brings big bat to Beloit lineup
BELOIT The Beloit Snappers organization has produced a number of players who went on to have successful big-league careers.
Former Milwaukee Brewer stars Greg Vaughn, Geoff Jenkins and Ben Sheets are on the short list, along with former Minnesota and current Chicago Cubs pitcher Matt Garza.
Yet the name at the top of the list has to be Detroit Tigers slugger Prince Fielder. The former Milwaukee Brewers first baseman is the youngest player ever to hit 50 home runs in a season and a four-time All-Star.
Matt Olson would love to follow in Fielder's footsteps. Olson was the 47th overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft and is the Oakland Athletics' No. 5 overall prospect according to MLB.com. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Olson, a graduate of Parkview High School in Lilburn, Ga., starts his ascent to what he hopes is a quick journey to the big leagues as Beloit's starting first baseman.
The soft-spoken Olson says he feels no pressure, despite being the top-ranked A's prospect in Beloit.
"After the signing and draft, and everything that came with it, all that is now is a title," Olson said of his prospect ranking. "What you do now and how quickly you move up the ladder depends on what you do on the field. That's the same for everyone.
"Obviously I'd like to move up as quickly as possible, but as long as I'm here, I'm going to work hard and enjoy the experience."
Olson batted a combined .282 last season between the Arizona League and the short season with the Vermont Lake Monsters. He had a team-high eight homers in rookie ball, which was second in the AZL.
Despite growing up a huge Atlanta Braves fan, Olson knew early on in the draft that the Braves were not likely to select him. He said five or six clubs showed interest in him leading up to the draft, including the A's, but he didn't expect Oakland to call his name because they had kept a low profile. Olson committed to play college ball at Vanderbilt but quickly signed once the A's came calling.
"For us, he has one of the best high-school bats in the country—just a very skilled hitter with strength, and the power's going to come as he gets bigger and stronger," Oakland A's scouting director Eric Kubota said of Olson. "We really feel good about his bat. We saw him hit home runs off two first-round pitchers this year."
Told that Fielder once wore the Snappers uniform when the Beloit club was the Class A affiliate of Milwaukee, Olson's eyes lit up.
"I've got something to live up to," Olson said. "I didn't know that, but that's pretty cool."
Olson doesn't hope to make Beloit his summer home, but knows that his bat will decide whether he stays or goes. The right-handed thrower and left-handed hitter figures to move up quickly on Oakland's organizational chart.
"It's all pretty hard to believe," Olson said of his being drafted in the first round and the $1.08 million signing bonus that came with it. "Five years ago I was a chubby little kid that could've never dreamed of being drafted.
"Now it's a matter of staying focused and doing whatever I can to help this team win games."
That's even if Matt Olson's stay in Beloit is a short one.