Athletics

Why A's believe Olson is poised to do 'big things' in 2021

Athletics
USATSI

Matt Olson appears to be back to his old ways. Spring training numbers don't count, but A’s general manager David Forst said he was happy to put credence in the first baseman’s spring performance.

“It was great to see Matt swing the bat that way,” Forst said Wednesday. 

Olson posted a .327 average and staggering 1.142 OPS in the Cactus League with six home runs, 18 RBI and just 14 strikeouts in 52 plate appearances.

It was well-needed. 

“I know he hurt a lot this offseason about the numbers he put up last year, about how we all sort of felt like that wasn’t at all what he’s capable of,” Forst said.

Olson was the first to admit he “stunk” last year at the plate, hitting just .195 and 14 home runs in 60 games. He had 42 RBI, but he chalked up to being lucky and batting with runners on the bases.

That wasn’t the case this spring. 

“To watch him go out really from the start -- we had some sim games on the backfield even before games started where he was hitting a homer every day so to see his confidence, to see the way he swung the bat, then to put up some numbers in spring training games, I think everybody in that clubhouse feels like he’s in for big things this year,” Forst said.

Olson is projected to hit at least 30 home runs across the various stat sites, but a healthy, consistent Olson is what the team ultimately wants.

 
RELATED: A's Olson drawing praise for Cactus League power surge

Other notes from Forst’s availability on Wednesday:

  • Forst said the A’s will have to keep an eye on A.J. Puk’s innings no matter what role he has in 2021 since he hasn’t played in a true game since 2019. 
  • Forst paid attention to the strong performances of pitchers Cole Irvin and Daulton Jefferies during the spring, which will make the choice for the No. 5 spot in the rotation that much more difficult to make. Melvin added on Wednesday he hasn’t announced the fifth starter.
  • Forst said “it’s absolutely an individual decision” when it comes to a player receiving the COVID-19 vaccination. Everyone in the clubhouse is aware of the memo sent out by MLB in regard to more relaxed protocols should they receive the vaccine. He couldn’t comment on whether or not he believes the A’s will get to the 85 percent mark, but there are a lot of players who are interested, he said.
  • The A’s plan on using utility player Chad Pinder as often as possible, “I think he’ll find his way into the lineup,” Forst said.
  • Ka’ai Tom “came out hot,” after dealing with an oblique injury: .310/.412/.552 this spring with nine hits. The A’s wanted a left-handed option in the outfield which is why they acquired him in the Rule 5 Draft this offseason. “There should be some good matchups for him early on.”
  • Melvin’s last contract extension keeps him in Oakland through 2021, with a 2022 option. As far as any conversation that occurred, Forst said the two spoke on it, and ultimately, it’s up to what Melvin wants to do as opposed to the A’s: “He’s earned that right.”