ALTOONA, Pa. — A simple glance at anything regarding Altoona Curve outfielder Jared Oliva and you'll see he's the highest ranked prospect, ranked No. 19 according to Baseball America, donning a Curve uniform this season.
When talking to him though, you'd think he was an undrafted free agent trying to grind his way level by level to get to the majors.
"It's a cool accolade to have but honestly I don't pay attention to it too much," Oliva said. "I know if I play to the best of my abilities, I can play in the big leagues,"
Statistically the Arizona product has struggled this year as he adjusts to life at the Double-A level, but it's not for a lack of effort or motivation.
"Each day trying to show up, get my work in and not try to rely on being a prospect and saying I can kick back," Oliva said. "That's not the case, you know, there's a lot of good baseball players here not 'prospects' and that's what makes our team so unique. It makes it fun to show up to the yard everyday."
Altoona manager Michael Ryan has been with the Curve for the past three seasons and has seen a plethora of prospects and non-prospects come through the Allegheny mountains on their professional journeys. He, of all people, knows about the adjustment period that commonly takes place for players upon arriving in Double-A, an adjustment period Oliva struggled with at first.
"When a player's coming to Double-A for the first time, there's going to be an adjustment period," Ryan said. "Sometimes failures are the best opportunity to learn. That's what he's been going through early in the season. He's starting to learn. He's starting to pick up things. He's starting to apply those things in game. His at-bats keep getting better every day."
Those struggles were due in large part to the more advanced pitching he's facing while with Altoona this season and has forced Oliva, 23, to elevate his game accordingly.
"Obviously it was a challenge, still is every day you show up to the yard. We were facing a lot of the same dudes I saw last year in the Florida State League just everyone is more advanced, more fine tuned in their craft," Oliva said.
"It's been fun showing up to the yard. It's a new challenge each day. It's a real testament to my work ethic and you know the last few weeks I feel like we've done a good job working hard and the results have shown."
Oliva has since rebounded from his early season struggles batting .211 over the past 10 games to bring his average to .205 on the season.
A six-game hit streak last week helped the boost in average and the consistency at the plate helped him tie the game and ultimately score the winning run Saturday night against Akron.
His approach has been focused on fine-tuning the intricacies of his game while continuing his growth on both sides of the ball.
"This year it's really been about fine-tuning things from scouting reports and defense positioning to offense, the plan for that day. Everything is a little more fine tuned, it makes it fun but it's a challenge still," Oliva said.
As for what's gotten into Oliva that's led to his recent success at the plate, it's the culmination of his mind and body working together in unison to create a solid foundation.
"A couple mechanical things, but really we're getting mind and body working together really committing to my approach at the plate, making sure I'm 100 percent committed to it when I step in the box," Oliva said. "Anytime I'm unsure I can step out and reset. That's been the biggest thing. There have been a couple mechanical things in there, but we've put in a lot of work really trying to get a good foundation going in and it's starting to show."
Still there's plenty of work and room for improvement as Oliva continues his trek toward the big leagues and according to his manager he's on the right track.
"The game is teaching him a lot, just try to each game learn something new and make the adjustment and apply it the next day. He's been working his tail off hitting early on the field with Nunns (pitching coach Jon Nunnally). We like where he's at right now."
According to Oliva, a former seventh-round pick, it's as simple as continuing to gain experience in all facets of the game.
"Experience is really the biggest thing. The more at-bats, the more talks I can have with the coaches about certain situations, it's just kind of an ongoing thing," Oliva said. "Sometimes you can't really learn something until you experience it or the situation happens on the field."
The greatest asset Oliva shows is his belief in his abilities and where he wants to go in his career. With that amount of determination it would be no surprise to see him pushing on the door to Triple-A sooner rather than later.
CURVE'S TOP HITTERS
Hunter Owen, 3B -- Owen is leading the team with a .300 average while batting .343 over the past 10 games.
Jared Oliva, OF -- Oliva's six-game hit streak ended Sunday night, but is now hitting .205 on the season.
CURVE'S TOP PITCHERS
Top starting performance: Sean Brady vs. New Hampshire on June 1: 6.1 innings pitched, two runs on five hits, two strikeouts and three walks. Brady is 2-4 with a 6.04 ERA.
Top reliever: Blake Weiman. Weiman threw two innings May 31 and did not give up a run or a hit for that matter as he struck out three and walked one. Weiman boasts a 2.20 ERA in 12 games for Altoona this year
THE ROSTER MOVES/INJURY UPDATE
It was a quiet night on the roster move front over the past week. There is no update on pitcher Scooter Hightower, who remains on indefinite leave.
Since June 1, Altoona has won seven of nine including a doubleheader sweep Saturday against Akron.
After an off day Monday, the Curve host Portland for three games before embarking for Binghamton for the weekend.
ALTOONA FUN THING
Altoona donned jerseys commemorating the 75th Anniversary of D-Day Friday night and on hand were those who survived that day and lived to tell about it.
— Altoona Curve (@AltoonaCurve) June 8, 2019
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