Should Red Sox view pitching prospect Wyatt Olds as starter or reliever moving forward?

Over the summer, the Red Sox selected 20 players in the revamped version of the 2021 amateur draft.

Of the 16 draftees Boston wound up signing, eight were pitchers. This piece in particular will focus on University of Oklahoma right-hander Wyatt Olds and the year he put together.

Taken in the seventh round (and with the 196th overall pick) in the draft, Olds signed with the Sox for $239,000 in late July and was promptly sent out to the club’s spring training complex in Fort Myers.

After making just one appearance for the rookie-level Florida Complex League Red Sox, Olds was promoted to Low-A Salem on August 20. The 22-year-old closed out his first professional season by posting a 2.45 ERA and 2.52 FIP to go along with 20 strikeouts to six walks over five outings (three starts) spanning 11 innings of work.

Among the 334 pitchers who accrued at least 10 innings on the mound last season, Olds ranked 11th in strikeouts per nine innings (16.4), 23rd in strikeout rate (40%), 26th in FIP, and 43rd in xFIP (3.26), per FanGraphs.

Olds, who was signed out of college by area scout Lane Decker, was used as both a starter and reliever in his three seasons with the Sooners. Most recently, the Oklahoma native opened the 2021 campaign in the team’s starting rotation, but he was moved back to the bullpen in mid-April.

Coming into the draft, Olds was regarded by Baseball America as the 422nd-ranked draft-eligible prospect. According to his Baseball America scouting report from that time, the righty’s “lower arm slot can make it hard for hitters to pick up the ball, and he misses bats, but he also misses the strike zone. He has a long arm action that he has struggled to repeat consistently, especially in longer stints. His fastball picked up a tick after his move to the bullpen, as he went from sitting 91-94 mph to sitting 93-96 mph and touching 97 mph.

In addition to his high-octane fastball, SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall writes that Olds works with an 85-88 mph slider and a changeup that still has room for improvement.

Listed at 6-foot and 183 pounds, Olds does not turn 23 until August. He “has definite major-league potential” as a reliever, per Cundall. But he needs “to improve his changeup and show he can stay healthy over a full season as a starter to be considered in that role.”

On that note, Olds is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 minor-league season in Salem’s starting rotation. Cundall suggests that this would force the young hurler “to use all of his pitches and refine his fastball command.”

(Picture of Wyatt Olds: Edward Reali/OU Daily)

Author: Brendan Campbell

Blogging about the Boston Red Sox since April '17. Also support Tottenham Hotspur.

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