Mike Olt doesn't set goals at the beginning of the season. If he did, though, he almost certainly would be exceeding them.
Ranked as the Rangers' No. 3 prospect and MLB.com's No. 34 overall, Olt went 2-for-3 with his 20th homer of the season Monday, though the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders lost to the Midland RockHounds, 7-6.
The 23-year-old third baseman is the fourth player in the Minor Leagues to reach the 20-homer plateau this year. Toledo's Brad Eldred and Omaha's Wil Myers currently lead the way with 24, while Iowa's Anthony Rizzo is one back at 23.
"Last week, I kind of pressed a little bit and came out of my approach," Olt said. "Today, I was able to relax and basically look for something up in the zone."
The home run came in the third inning, when Olt smacked a 3-1 pitch over the left-field wall to plate two. The shot came off No. 3 A's prospect Sonny Gray, the 18th overall pick in the 2011 Draft.
"He got ahead early and I was able to work it to a 3-1 count," Olt said. "I was just able to gear up on a fastball. His fastball is really a firm fastball -- it really jumps out at you -- so I was glad I was able to get out in front because he was beating a lot of our guys."
Olt added a leadoff double in the sixth and walked in the eighth. Overall, he leads the Texas League in OPS (1.024) and ranks second in both batting average (.317) and RBIs (57). He has also proven to be one of the most patient hitters in the league, placing third with 43 free passes.
"I think a lot of it just has to do with my plate discipline," Olt said. "The times I do struggle, I get out of the at-bat by swinging at balls. If I'm patient and let the pitch come to me, I think that's been able to help me. The last couple years, I went up and was 'see ball, hit it.' Now I have a different approach. I'm trying to stick to the plan."
The impressive campaign comes on the heels of a forgettable 2011 regular season. After missing the first two months with a broken collarbone, Olt batted .267 with 14 homers in 69 games for Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach. Part of the problem, according to Olt, was lingering soreness that prevented him from putting in extra work.
That wasn't a problem for him in the Arizona Fall League, however. The 2010 first-rounder hit .349 with 13 longballs in 27 contests there, earning spots on the AFL's All-Prospect Team and in the league's Rising Stars Game.
Olt, who will be starting in the Texas League All-Star Game on June 28, said his performance last fall has carried over into this season.
"A lot of baseball is all about confidence," Olt said. "The AFL was a big step for me. I've never faced those types of arms day in and day out. It really was a confidence booster for me. I knew I could handle some of the best pitching the Minors. It does carry over into the offseason -- you're trying to keep that swing going. It definitely helped."
Michael Choice, the A's top prospect, hit a three-run homer and scored twice for the RockHounds. Gray ultimately allowed four runs on seven hits over six innings, striking out three and walking one.