Under the Radar Prospect to Target: Matt Olson
Everybody who plays in a dynasty league loves prospects. Even if you didn’t care about minor leaguers before joining a dynasty league you quickly learned how critically important young players are. There is a good chance it opened up your mind to the wonderful world of prospecting. That’s what got me started. We all crave those elite prospects for our minor league rosters, so much so that their trade values soar into the stratosphere. The key to success is to spot those future superstars before your leaguemates do. If you wait for the annual top prospects lists from Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America to be published it will be too late. That might have worked 5 years ago but the volume of prospect information available to fantasy leaguers has exploded. So unless you grab them early you will be scrambling for the next Mike Trout and Matt Harvey at the same time as everyone else in your league. What you really need to do is identify those studs before they hit the big lists that everyone sees. You need to dig early and dig deep so you can snare these guys cheaply before their values skyrocket. That is the Holy Grail of dynasty league dominance. Here at The Dynasty Guru we will keep you up to date on the future stars you need to know about.
Many of the top 10 most elite prospects in baseball spent time in the low minors as relatively unheralded nobodies before shooting to the top of the lists. Many guys who become elite prospects were not 1st round draft picks nor celebrated amateur players. Some of the best players in the major leagues were never considered elite prospects. Guys like Paul Goldschmidt, Michael Brantley, Jose Altuve, Max Scherzer, Corey Kluber, and many more elite fantasy players never made it anywhere near the top of a prospect list. That means we could have obtained those guys for free if we had been smart enough to predict how good they would become. Let’s take a shot at doing that now.
This Winter I am going to write here about a few obscure guys who have the potential to become desirable fantasy players. I am not saying these guys are going to win MVP or Cy Young awards, but they have a good chance of helping your dynasty league team win some championships. The best thing is these guys can be obtained very cheaply. They are not hot prospects right now, but they probably will be pretty soon. Even if they don’t become elite prospects they should become good players, which is really what we want. Today I will talk about one of my favorite undervalued prospects…
Matt Olson, 1B Athletics
Olson was a first round pick in 2012 but his first two minor league seasons were nothing special. He didn’t stink, but he didn’t do anything to distinguish himself from hundreds of other former 1st round picks still toiling in the minors. Olson is a big guy (6’4″, 236 lbs) and isn’t very athletic. He is limited to first base defensively. He strikes out a lot. Scouts are not impressed by those characteristics and do not tend to rank such players highly on prospect lists. But Olson opened some eyes with a breakthrough season at High A in 2014. He hit 37 home runs en route to a .262/.404/.543 slash line and .947 OPS. That is pretty darn impressive, although it did happen in the hitter-friendly California League and in Stockton, which is an extremely hitter-friendly ballpark. But even taking that into full consideration it was still a very good season for Olson. His wRC+ was 145, meaning that even after his stats are adjusted for league and ballpark he was still one of the best hitters in the low minors. He struck out 137 times in 634 plate appearances, but he also walked 117 times. That ratio is a sign of good things to come. He has good pitch recognition and strike zone awareness. He has an intelligent approach at the plate. But most importantly he has power. Lots of good old-fashioned, hard-to-find power. Quite a rare feature in today’s game where pitching is king. And it isn’t just raw, batting practice power either. He is going to hit plenty of home runs and the walks are a strong indication that he isn’t going to be the next Mark Reynolds who hits .220 and strikes out 200 times per year.
Olson also played in the Arizona Fall League and was arguably the best hitter there. His 137 SCOUT+ score was the highest in the league and his wRC+ was 196! He hit a home run every 11 ABs and walked more than he struck out. It’s only 11 games though, so we can’t get carried away based on such a small sample size. That being said it is encouraging to see a young player thrive against top-level competition like the AFL, where most of the players were much more experienced than Olson, some of them even had major league experience.
Olson is likely ticketed for AA ball in 2015. It will be his first exposure to the high minors, a time when many prospects fail for the first time after beating up on weak competition in the low minors. If he hits well he could be next year’s version of Joey Gallo. Gallo was perhaps last year’s biggest breakout prospect, going from the bottom of the preseason top 100 lists all the way up to the Top 10 as the season progressed. Gallo made that jump by hitting 42 home runs across High A and AA while also striking out a ton. The difference is that Gallo doesn’t draw walks like Olson does. Gallo now has a lot of trade value as an elite prospect, but at this time last year his value was about what Olson’s is right now. They are two very similar players, so it would not be a surprise if Olson follows a similar path to Gallo. If you can acquire Olson now you may have a very valuable commodity on your hands when he starts cranking home runs and climbing the prospect charts just like Gallo did last year.
When Olson reaches the major leagues he is likely to provide your team a lot of home runs and RBI. He doesn’t steal bases. He probably won’t have a great batting average, maybe .240 or thereabouts. But he will draw a lot of walks and put up a very good OBP of .350 or better. Power is rare in today’s game. Batting averages are dropping fast all around baseball. Olson won’t be the next Mike Trout but he can be the next Chris Carter, Lucas Duda or Brandon Moss on the low side; or maybe Jay Bruce or Anthony Rizzo on the high side. All of those guys are valuable starters on fantasy rosters. Acquire Olson now before his price rises. Then sit back and watch. If he rapidly climbs the prospect charts I would cash in his value in a trade just before he gets called up to the majors (that is when a prospect’s value peaks before dropping when he struggles initially in the majors, which is what happens to 95% of prospects, even elite ones). If he plays well but not well enough to become an elite prospect I would hold onto him and use him on your active roster when he gets the call. I am confident he will be a productive major league hitter within a couple of years.
I own Olson in The Dynasty Guru Experts’ League and can’t wait to see how he does this coming season. I picked him up for free during the summer after I traded all my best prospects for starting pitching. I have a lot riding on his progress. Come on Matt, don’t let me down buddy.
Are there any prospects you are wondering about? Any prospects you think are due for a breakout that we should talk about? Let us know in the comments below!