by Bill Moriarity / A’s Farm Editor
The A’s made Skye Bolt their 4th-round selection in the 2015 draft after the Georgia native put up a .259/.383/.449 slash line in his junior season at the University of North Carolina. The center fielder was viewed as a toolsy prospect who possessed speed, a strong arm, a solid glove, good bat speed and some raw power potential. After spending 2015 with short-season Vermont and 2016 in Beloit, Bolt is now spending the 2017 season with Stockton in the California League.
After Monday’s contest, Bolt was sporting a .239/.338/.439 slash line for the Ports. He leads the team with 9 stolen bases and is tied for the team lead in walks with 42. The 23-year-old has significantly increased his power numbers this year and has already hit a career-high 10 home runs in 81 games this season. Last week, after batting practice in Stockton, we took the opportunity to talk with Bolt about his first season in the California League…
AF: So, how do you feel your first season in the California League has been going for you so far?
SB: Yeah, it’s been a great year thus far. The Cal League’s been very receptive. I enjoy the home ballpark. That’s obviously a blessing and a nice place to play day in and day out. Everybody here’s been real receptive. It’s a well-oiled machine. It’s been great thus far – good first half of the season, good start to the second half. Every day’s getting better than the day before it, and that’s the name of the game. For me, it’s been a great season as far as improving things I wanted to improve. And I’m going to keep putting the right foot in front of the left and repeat as we go into this last quarter of the season.
AF: How is it hitting here in the California League as opposed to hitting in the Midwest League in Beloit? I know they’re very different environments.
SB: Yeah, definitely! That first month and a half to two months out in Beloit is unfriendly to say the least. But the Cal League’s been great. You’re forewarned to not fall into a trap, especially here in Stockton with the short porch in right. And for me personally, it’s been beneficial for me – not in the sense of hitting the long ball and utilizing it, but keeping my approach away from trying to do damage to that side of the field. The Cal League is obviously great as far as other ballparks. There’s eight teams, so you get to see everybody. You start to build that understanding and familiarity with different pitchers – or the same pitchers. And that’s what you’re going to see as you go up the ladder. I know in Midland, our Double-A club, it’s a small league as well. But as you go up the ladder, you’re going to see guys over and over again. So, it’s a learning experience, just like everything else. But I’ve really, really enjoyed playing here.
AF: I would think so. Those first couple of months of the season in the Midwest League, when it’s raining every other day, it must make it a little tough to get into a groove.
SB: Absolutely! There’s no rainouts here. You’re going to play every day. The game on the schedule is going to be played one way or another. And that’s great!
AF: Have the pitchers here in the California League been approaching you any differently than what you’ve been used to seeing in the past?
SB: Yeah, again back to seeing the same guys over and over again, you start to build a log. A lot of us guys keep track of what certain pitchers are trying to do to us. And that’s something that we visit quite often as we see them what seems like every two weeks. But I feel like guys are more in the zone. They’ve got more of an aggressive, attack-the-zone mentality, which for me as a hitter, I love. I enjoy a pitcher who’s going to attack the zone and going to come right at you. And that’s, for the most part, what we’ve gotten here in the Cal League – more refined arms working to attack the zone as they’re trying to go up the ladder as well.
AF: Well, at least you’re more likely to see more pitches you can get the bat on anyway.
SB: And that’s exactly it! You ask any hitter and they’ll tell you they’d much prefer that kind of guy.
AF: What kind of adjustments have you had to make this season, and what have you really been trying to work on this year as a hitter?
SB: For me personally, it’s been the duality of being a switch hitter and getting the reps on both sides and working with [hitting coach] Tommy [Everidge] on what I need day in and day out to maintain both sides of the dish, which to this point, I think I’ve done. And for me, the adjustment has been not missing my pitch. Reflecting back on the past two seasons, it’s just been a lot of misses. Did the pitcher get you out or did you get yourself out? You ask any hitter, and 70% of the time they’re going to say, I got myself out. And that’s the tough part of the game. But 70% of the time, it’s on us to get the pitch that you’re looking for and do with it what you’re supposed to. And most of the time with hitters, it’s “I missed my pitch” – it wasn’t the strike-three call. So, this season, it’s been not missing my pitch, being prepared each and every pitch, getting myself in a good hitting position, especially from the left side of the plate, to attack my pitch and do what I want with it. And thus far in the season, I’ve done a better job of that and I’ve started to do more damage with some extra bases.
AF: I know the minor league season can be a bit of a grind, and we’re getting into the dog days here towards the end.
AF: So, this last month or so here, what are you really focused on and what are you trying to accomplish as we head into the home stretch of the season?
SB: In the home stretch of the season, you want to be as aggressive as you can be. You don’t want to leave a season saying, “I wish I would have been a little more aggressive.” But being aggressive gives you more opportunities, and that’s something that I’ve aimed to do progressively over the past few seasons – be aggressive and let my tools play, and be the athlete that I know I can be and that I have to be in order to continue to go where I want to go in this game. And I can’t stress enough, I don’t think any position player wants to leave the season having this conversation with you or others saying, “I wish I was a little more aggressive.” Let it all out, attack your pitches, attack bases, take extra bases on the base paths – that’s my goal for this last quarter. So, this home stretch of the season, it’s just be aggressive, play my game and let the cards fall where they may.
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