Monday, February 6, 2017

2015 Matt Olson

For my third installment of A Very Simple Idea, I wanted to go with one of the cards that I knew was not holding much value.  I chose the 2015 Matt Olson card because I have had about five of them in my possession at various times over the last couple of years, and I wanted to know why.  I know that the card has always been on the low end of the price spectrum, but I also know that Olson had a card in 2013 that was holding value at a slightly better pace.  

My apologies to the nine of you that read the last post for missing a week.  When a new foster child comes into the home, the required dentist and doctor visits start to pile up alongside other events that were not apart of life a few weeks ago.  Personally, I really missed spending the time researching and writing, so I hope that I won’t be missing any more time with this blog.  Thanks for sticking with me!

Player History:

Drafted out of a Georgia high school in the first round (47th overall) by the Oakland Athletics, Matt Olson has a long list of accolades accumulated during his minor league career.  He played in the 2015 Future’s Game during the All-Star Break and was on the Oakland A’s 2014 and 2015 Organization All-Star teams.  

In 2014 the list of accomplishments was quite impressive: MiLB All-Star, All-Prospect Team, he won the Minor League Home Run Award and more.  So obviously he led the Oakland minor league system in home runs, along with slugging percentage and total bases.  That year he also ranked second in the system in on-base percentage, as well as fifth in doubles and sixth in hits.  By all means, Matt Olson is a very distinguished ballplayer in the minors.  And he led the minor leagues in walks!

How did he do all of that?  Well, the fact that he is currently listed at 6’5” and 230 pounds is a good start!  Here are some quotes from scouting reports about Olson on offense:

  • Fits into Beane’s new philosophy, which in addition to the long-standing reverence of patience and power,  puts a premium on defense
  • Tree trunk legs
  • He showed outstanding patience and plate discipline, and he hit with tremendous power [in the 2014 AZ Fall League]
  • [Takes] advantage of his quick hands and strong wrists, Olson feasts on fastballs, getting the barrel of the bat out front and driving the ball to his pull side. 
  • Big, strong and athletic, Olson has above-average pitch recognition and is selective in offering at pitches. His big arms cover the plate well. 
  • Olson's swing is short and compact
  • Raw power is the focal point of Olson's game, and even more power should be on the way - an asset on the base paths 
  • Olson in a word: Disciplined
In all honestly, it’s hard to fathom a guy who is described like this and with the minor league career to back it up not having an impact in the majors.  Keeping in mind his card value, my next thought was to look at what has been said about him on the defensive side of the ball: 
  • Scouted as a pitcher out of high school, his arm is an asset as well.  
  • As a former pitcher, Olson has the arm strength and accuracy to play any of the three outfield positions  
  • A near complete lack of footspeed will relegate Olson to first base, but he has the plus hands and reaction time to be an elite defender there
This is where it starts to get murky.  Olson has played 586 games in the minors to date.  Of those, 385 came at first base and the rest were in the outfield (primarily right field).  In the games he played at first base, he had only 21 Errors (Put Outs is a hard stat to do anything with when it comes to first basemen), but only 10 Errors in his time in the OF with 292 Put Outs.  So it seems he is a top notch defender no matter where he is stationed.  

Coming into the 2013 season (his first time to be featured on an Inception card), he was the fifth ranked prospect in the A’s organization.  By the 2016 season, he had moved up to third and made it onto the Top 100 Prospects list in all of baseball.  But coming into 2017, he has moved down to being the eighth overall prospect for the club, even though he made his Major League debut this past season.

So what gives?  Why is he not more highly regarded as a prospect?  Here are his stats in the minors:

G: 586 AB: 2111 H: 520 HR: 103 RBI: 370 SO: 606 AVG: .246 OBP: .364

He made his major league debut this past Septemeber against the Royals and recorded a walk and a run scored.  It took him six games to get his first hit.  By the end of the year, his stats looked like this:

G: 11 B: 21 H: 2 RBI: 0 SO: 4 AVG: .095 OBP: .321 BB: 7


For a guy who has done the things he has, something has to give, right?  I mean, the fact that he struggles against lefties should not singularly account for the struggle Olson is having reaching the majors.  He is one of only a small handful of players to hit 35 HRs in a season before turning 21 (Stanton, Gallo, and Baez are the other recent examples).

If I were a guy with more time and more statistical analysis in my blood, I would probably look to see if maybe he peaked in 2014.  I would spend time comparing stats from that year to 2015 and 2016 to see what the trend is.  But honestly, this time I am going to leave it to the expert.

This quote from Chris Welsh, aka The Welsh, from the In This League and Prospect One podcasts pretty much sums it all up:

"Matt Olsen came in 3rd in the minors Home Runs in 2014 only behind Kris Bryant and Joey Gallo...good company right? Olsen’s problem though is 2 straight years of regression following that. Olsen’s average dropped over 20 points, and the last 2 years homer numbers don’t even equal 2014. Yikes! There is still some hope, as he doesn’t turn 23 until March 29th, but Olsen is trending down in the eyes of scouts, but possibly could be a late bloomer. Probably with a new team though"
I will be very interested to see if he can overcome the last two year’s worth of regression in his stats and be the guy he was drafted to be.  The overall feel of the baseball and baseball card industries seems to point to the belief that he will not, but I am not ready to give up on him yet. 

Look of the Card:

2015 was the year that my relationship with Inception became complicated.  In all honesty, I did not love the look when it first came out.  This might have been colored by the fact that I loved 2013 and 2014 so much and it was the first time that I saw the card and the retail prices upon release.  Maybe it created some bias, I am not sure. I even went as far as to assume I would never chase the full set but only try and acquire the guys that I liked from the set.  A terrible assumption, to be sure!

As for the overall look of the 2015 cards, I think the idea is pretty cool but it just does not have the magic of the first two sets.  This time around the background is quite clearly a baseball.  In the upper left hand corner of the card are about 8 stitches from what looks to be a well used baseball.  That is one of the redeeming aspects of the look, it’s got a very strong sense of nostalgia because it feels like it was made with a baseball in my garage from when I was a kid.  

The outer rim of the card has the texture and color of an old baseball; it starts fairly dark on the rim and by half way to the picture of the player the color is significantly lighter.  The green on Olson’s Athletics hat looks really awesome up against the dark cream color.  

In the bottom left corner of the card is the basic information about Olson in a silver stamp, and the bottom right has a silver stamp with the A’s logo.  I honestly cannot tell you if 2013 or 2014 has the same logo stamp without going and checking; that means it definitely stands out and was a great addition to the overall look of the card in 2015.  

Olson’s signature leaves a lot to be desired on the example I have in my hand.  It is essentially an M followed by a dash, then an O and l that sort of trails off.  Not the most exciting signature, but probably not the worst overall. 

As for the picture of Olson, the word that comes to mind when I see it is “ballplayer.”  The colored sunglasses, the athletic stance with the first base mitt up at his thigh and the look on his face all say “athlete” to me.  The look on his face - even with the sunglasses - radiates intensity and focus, which pretty much follows with what I read about Olson on defense. 

The back of the card states that Olson “Produces huge raw power with violent, well-leveraged cut” and that same type of description, I think, applies to his defensive pose on the card.  There is a strong sense of contained power/athleticism.  Unfortunately it seems in the end that it is a bit too well contained to ever end up with a career in the majors.

Small caveat: I played first base pretty much my entire baseball career and so I may be a little biased when reading into his body language and positioning.  

Card Value:

So like I mentioned earlier, it seemed to me that this particular card was always on the lower end of the spectrum of value.  And the sales data pretty much bears that out.  It’s not the cheapest card in the 2015 set, but it ranks down there with the best values for sure. Here is the data from eBay:

The range of prices for sold items was pretty steady at $1.29-$4.99. There was a parallel ( /150) that went $0.99, and another at /50 that sold for only $5.95.  That’s pretty crazy.  For me though, the best indicator of the overall lack of market value for Olson is that his Inception Origins card (numbered to 25) sold for $5.99.  Compared to most other Origins that I have seen, that’s a steal.

The current listings for the base card run at $1.99-$10.99, on up $50 for the parallel numbered to /5.  Good luck on that!  

The COMC listings prove pretty much the same expectation: $1.99-$4.24 in general with a /50 parallel listed at $8.65, but it could probably go for less.

As for sales on COMC, there have been 34 total sold since the release, with prices ranging up to $4.99.  There were 15 sold in the first quarter of release, so even when it first came out it was not an expensive card as far as Inception goes. 

So honestly I don't know what I learned about Olson during all of this.  He seems to me to almost be one of those "AAAA" players.  Excellent in the minors but just does not have what it takes to have a career in the Bigs.  

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