Mike Olt, the Texas Rangers' top power-hitting prospect, learned last season there's a dramatic difference between major league pitching and Double-A pitching.
And it goes beyond talent.
Rated among the top 25 prospects in the minors, according to Baseball America, the second-highest-rated third base prospect, Olt hit .152 in a brief stint with the Rangers last season.
Olt slammed 28 home runs in only 354 at bats at Double-A Frisco last season but didn't drive a ball over the wall in 33 big league at-bats.
“If you have a weakness in Double-A, their pitching coach will point it out, but it isn't always executed by the pitchers,” Olt said. “At lower levels you know at some point you'll probably get a fastball middle (part of the plate) in. In the majors you may never get a fastball middle in.”
Olt said the brief major league audition was invaluable.
“It was a really cool experience, something that definitely will help me this year,” Olt said. “I learned a lot up there. They have a great corps of guys that kind of took me under their wings and taught me a lot.”
Veterans taught him it's beneficial to have a regular routine, whether it's his pregame batting practice approach or a pregame snack.
“I'd just to get in the cage at some point and work on my swing,” Olt said. “But talking to those guys, they said you really need a routine because when you're struggling it's something you can fall back on.”
A first-round draft pick out of the University of Connecticut three years ago, Olt is off to a slow start (batting .102) in his first taste of Triple-A with Round Rock, which played a doubleheader against the RedHawks on Thursday at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
“He's striking out a lot,” said Round Rock manager Bobby Jones. “To me, he's taking a lot of pitches he should be hitting. I think he's trying to be too fine. He's in a little bit of funk, but it's early. It's just a matter of making adjustments. He'll be fine.”
Olt is in a similar situation as Rangers shortstop prospect Jurickson Profar. There were rumors Olt could be asked to change positions since he's blocked by Rangers All-Star third baseman Adrian Beltre.
Olt played a handful of games in the outfield with the Rangers during spring training but has played only third base the first 15 games with Round Rock. Even if the Rangers eventually ask him to play some outfield, Olt said he's more comfortable than last season.
“Last year, I really didn't practice it at all. I just kind of went out there and played,” Olt said. “This year, I picked up a lot of little things, making reads and all that. To only way to learn what the ball is going to do off the bat is practice.”
The Rangers might eventually move Olt to right field or possibly first base where Mitch Moreland isn't a lock to hold on to the position. But similar to Profar, there are rumors the Rangers might trade Olt to upgrade their roster.
“Two years ago, it first started that I might possibly get traded,” Olt said. “Last year, I didn't think about it. Whatever happens happens. I feel I'll be in a good situation no matter where I'm at whether I stay with Texas, a great organization, or I get my shot somewhere else.”
Olt's focus is to find his hitting stroke, so when he gets his shot he'll be better prepared.
“It's about trusting your game plan each at bat,” Olt said. “It's different than lower levels. Here or the majors you have to know certain situations like a runner on second they might throw a different pitch in a different spot. You have to study more what pitchers are trying to do. It's a different game.”