BY: Richard W. Humphrey
Perhaps lost in the euphoria of Wednesday night’s exciting game was the announcement afterward that the Rangers have called up Mike Olt from AA Frisco. Olt was originally drafted out of the University of Connecticut in 2010 with the 49th overall pick in the draft. He is a third baseman and right-handed hitter. 2012 is his first season at the AA level, where he was hitting .288 with 28 home runs and 82 RBI’s. He has developed into one of the Rangers top three minor league prospects and is clearly the best power hitting prospect at the upper levels of the Rangers’ farm system. He was certainly one of the most sought after prospects by other teams as Jon Daniels looked to fortify the Rangers before the trade deadline.
Daniels said after Wednesday’s game that his goal in making trade s last month was to strengthen the Rangers’ bench. When a trade for a bat did not materialize, Daniels opted for Olt, saying “He deserves it.”
The move is still curious as it makes no sense to have Olt in Arlington to sit on the bench. He needs to be playing. Perhaps not every day, but on most days. He is an outstanding defensive third baseman, and the Rangers of course already have a middle of the batting order, Gold Glove third baseman (Adrian Beltre) signed to a long term contract.
The question is then where will the playing time for Olt come, as he will most assuredly see more action than the man he replaced on the roster – Brandon Snyder. Adrain Beltre has looked gimpy at times recently, so perhaps Olt sees some time at third base with Beltre DHing. Olt has also been worked at first base and the outfield this year.
The bottom line is that the player most likely to see his playing time reduced is Michael Young. This is obviously a difficult situation for the Rangers. Young is a fan favorite, a hard worker, a great example for younger players, and a team leader. He has been the face of this franchise for years.
However, four months into the season, he looks to be a markedly less productive hitter. The Rangers have put on the brave face saying he’ll come around, but he isn’t coming around. Last year he hit .338. So far this year, he’s hitting .268. Last year, he walked 47 times, which is a small total in itself. So far this year with approximately two-thirds of the season gone, he has just 18. Last year, he had 58 hits for extra bases; this year just 22. Last year, he drove in 106 runs. This year he’s got 42. So in summation, that’s a materially reduced batting average; an even more materially reduced on base percentage, with far less power and far fewer runs driven in.
It’s a PR nightmare, but if this team is to realize its potential, it is going to be difficult to carry Michael Young’s weak bat going forward. The Rangers have looked lifeless during the homestand that concludes tonight. They are in need of a spark. It’s doubtful that Mike Olt is the total answer, but hopefully, he is part of the answer.
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