Like many players under the new coaching staff, Arizona Wildcats outfielder Jared Oliva saw an enormous jump in his offensive production, and now he’s become a fairly high draft pick.
The junior from Saugus, CA was taken in the seventh round by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was the 208th overall pick. The signing bonus slot value is exactly $200,000.
Oliva has an interesting back story and how he ended up at Arizona. The Daily Wildcat most recently wrote about how Oliva’s high school coach undermined his walk-on offer from Arizona after not playing much his senior year at Valencia HS.
So despite the lack of support, Arizona ended up with Oliva.
That was the last year of the Andy Lopez era, and when Jay Johnson stepped in, you could see immediate upgrades to Oliva’s offensive game.
In 2017, his batting average jumped from .240 to .321, and his OPS went from .693 to .883. Oliva attributed this to a slight change in his batting stance that allowed him to see pitches with his dominant eye.
“What I tell everybody is that I made a big adjustment getting my right eye, my dominant eye, locked in on the pitch longer,” Oliva explained. “Before I used to see it, then I’d turn and lose vision of the ball, and it’s already hard enough to hit.”
“So the biggest thing is keeping my eyes locked in. I’m staying more square to the plate, and it’s allowing me to see the ball better. I’m laying off the tough pitches, and now I can swing at a better pitch and ultimately have a better end result.”
It will be interesting to see how well Oliva improves in the outfield as well. He was used primarily as the center fielder at Arizona, and that’s where the Pirates announced him. There were times when he struggled with reading balls in center, so that will certainly be something he’ll have to work on.
Baseball America had him ranked as the 140th best prospect in this year’s draft.
Either way, it’s been cool to see Oliva’s development over the last three years and hopefully he continues that upward trend in the Minors.