Athletics

Why star slugger Olson is A's 'heartbeat' to Beane, Forst

Athletics

A down 2020 season aside, Matt Olson remains one of the top first basemen in the American League. The slugger paced all AL first basemen with 36 home runs in 2019, despite missing 35 games due to an early-season injury.

One of the league's best defenders at the position as well as a bona fide slugger, Olson is an extremely valuable player for the A's. President of baseball operations Billy Beane and general manager David Forst delivered their "State of the A's" on Sunday, and spoke about why they're so excited about Olson's future with the team.

"Not only with the glove and helping out the other three guys in the infield, but you see the throws he makes and just the presence he has at first, so you're right if he does what he's capable of offensively with Gold Glove defense, he's absolutely in that conversation," Forst told Chris Townsend about Olson's potential to be an MVP-caliber player.

"What's amazing about Oly is, he's got this clock, this really cool internal clock, he slows down the game a little bit and he does that at first base too," Beane said. "There's never any panic when something happens, his footwork is fantastic for a big guy, he throws well, and even off the field he's got this real sense of coolness about him, never gets too high never gets too low, and in some sense he's a little bit of the heartbeat of the team, where Chappy can be really dynamic athletically, Oly is just very consistent but he's consistent at a very very high level. And I agree with you, he's got MVP-ability because he does impact both sides of the game."

 

Olson played in all 60 of the A's regular-season games in 2020, but hit just .195 and struggled to find a rhythm in the shortened campaign.

Those struggles don't seem to have carried over to the spring, as Olson smashed his sixth home run in the Cactus League on Sunday and is slashing .326/.347/.804 in 46 at-bats down in Arizona.

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Chris Bassitt, who will start for the A's on opening day against the Houston Astros, told reporters last week that the rest of the league should be "frightened" for the slugger to take the field in 2021.

“A healthy Olson is frightening for the league, I’ll tell you that,” Bassitt told reporters via video conference on Saturday. “I know everyone knows how good he is, but you give him a full year of being healthy and he’s going to put up some incredible numbers. I think we’re all very, very excited to see what he can do this year.”

Olson finished 21st in AL MVP voting in 2019, and he could have a meteoric rise up that list in 2021 if he can carry over his red-hot spring.