Versatile Olson finding footing in A's outfield

Versatile Olson finding footing in A's outfield

ANAHEIM -- Matt Olson perfectly fits the mold of a prototypical first baseman, yet the A's power-hitting prospect, who stands 6-foot-5, has spent more time in right field than any other position in recent seasons.

Blame it on his athleticism.

The A's have had a glut of corner infielders in the upper levels of their farm system, which prompted them to experiment with Olson in right field beginning in 2015. The results were favorable, helped along by his strong arm, and the versatility arguably aided Olson's path to the Majors. It could also help him stay here.

"Wherever they want me, whatever gets me in the lineup, I'm going to do that," said Olson, a 2012 first-round Draft pick who has 103 home runs across five Minor League seasons.

Olson, 22, made his fifth big league start Tuesday, when the A's squared off against the Angels for the middle matchup of a three-game set, and his second in right field. He went 0-for-2 in a 8-1 loss and is hitting .083 in 12 at-bats.

Yonder Alonso remains the everyday starter at first base, and Ryon Healy could eventually make a move there, too, whenever third-base prospect Matt Chapman is deemed big league ready -- further magnifying the significance of Olson's defensive flexibility.

"I still feel like he's a first baseman, but it helped that he looked pretty comfortable in right field," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "I said early on when he got here that I would like to see him play some first base, and he'll probably get another start there before the season's over, but we also want him to swing the bat, and if we can get him in there while keeping Yonder at first base too, it allows him to get in the lineup."

Olson played third base when he was younger, but, "as soon as I got to be 6-5, everyone was like, go play first base."

His height just so happened to play to his advantage during his first start in right field Sunday, when he casually took away an extra-base hit from Texas' Hanser Alberto with a leaping catch at the wall to end the eighth inning.

Olson's leaping grab

"I was talking with [Andrew] Lambo out there yesterday about how comfortable I feel," Olson said. "It's one of those positions where you just need the reps to reach that comfort level, and I feel like I've put in enough to where I can go out there and feel comfortable.

"You can't replicate how the ball comes off the bat in a game. You can go out there and take fungos for an hour, but when the game starts, it's going to tail a different way. It's a big learning curve, so you have to take your reads in BP seriously."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.