Spring Training Position-by-Position Previews: 3B

Spring Training Position-by-Position Previews: 3B
Luis Valbuena

If we count the holidays as a sort of intermission, we're about to get into the second half of the offseason.  The second half isn't usually as exciting, it's more about finding bargains and spackling in a few holes before spring training starts.

That said, I don't expect the Cubs to add much in the way of position players this offseason.  They are probably set in terms of players but that doesn't mean there aren't questions at every single position.

We're going to start with the most intriguing position this spring: Third Base.

The favorite is a platoon of Luis Valbuena and Donnie Murphy but that is obviously just a temporary situation.  It is very unlikely they will be the starters by 2015 and we could see them displaced even sooner than that.

As a stopgap solution, it's passable.  At this point we have a pretty good idea of what Luis Valbuena will give.  He's going to give you good defense and good ABs, but he probably won't hit for much in terms of power and average.

The incumbents

Luis Valbuena put up his second consecutive year with a low BABIP.  For those of us expecting a bounce back from his .260 BABIP in 2012, there was some disappointment.  Valbuena's BABIP actually went down last year to .233 and at the very least, it's apparent that he's not going to be a league average .300 BABIP hitter.  The problem last year was that Valbuena had just a 15.6% line drive rate and saw an increase in the number of flyballs he hit.  A return to his 2012 mark of a 21% line drive rate would be ideal, but even something around his career rate of 19% should provide a much needed bump in his batting average.  Considering Valbuena walks at a very high rate (13.6% last season), he doesn't have to hit for a high average to be productive.  He put up a .331 OBP last year despite hitting just .219.

That said, Oliver has an interesting projection for Valbuena.  It assumes his BABIP will rise to .287 while maintaining the .160 ISO he put up last year.  That translates to a .253/.350/.422 player with 19 HRs over 600 PAs.  Of course, Valbuena won't play everyday so we should expect that HR total to be closer to last year's total of 12.  Still, if Oliver's projections hold, that's a pretty solid role player when you factor in his good defense.

The favorite to platoon with Valbuena is holdover Donnie Murphy, whom the Cubs liked enough to re-sign after a career season in which he hit .255/.319/.530 with 11 HRs in just 163 PAs.  It's unrealistic to think he can repeat those power numbers and he's a bigger question mark than Valbuena overall given his so-so defense and aggressive approach at the plate (4.9% walk rate).  Murphy will be 31 as well so it's not like we should continue to expect steady improvement, but the Cubs will gladly take something close to what he did in 2013. It's always possible that he's a late bloomer.  He's also shown that he can thrive with sporadic playing time.  Not every player can do that, so that in itself is an asset (see Scott Hairston).  All in all, he goes in as the favorite as Valbuena's platoon partner.

The MLB competition

To hedge their bets, the Cubs brought in a couple of RH options with MLB experience.  The first is  Ryan Roberts.   His 2013 season didn't come close to matching Murphy's.  He hit .247/.295/.377 with 5 HRs.  However, he's had a better approach at the plate throughout his career and has played better defense at 3B.   The question is whether Roberts can hit enough to make it matter.  Oliver projects him to hit .222/.289/.327 next season.  It should be noted that Roberts also played very well vs. LHP, hitting .305/.345/.500 in 2013, though that was just 87 PAs.  His career rate of .266/.341/.444 mark vs. LHP, however, is enough to carry the short side of the 3B platoon should Murphy falter.

Another platoon option could be Chris Valaika, who was picked up very early in the offseason.  Valaika is a 2B but has played a good percentage of his time at 3B (70.1).   For comparison's sake he has played 127 innings at 2B  for his career.  It's a very limited sample size (47 PAs), but he has hit .378 with 2 HRs vs. LHP.  I don't expect Valaika to leap frog Roberts, much less Murphy for that short side platoon role, but given his ability to play SS, he could hang around as a utility IF'er and could slide in if he plays well and the others falter.

Technically Mike Olt has MLB experience and he'd be a candidate for the 3B, only in his case, he'd only do that as a full-time starter.  Olt is still recovering from eye issues so he's anything but a certainty.  He may be the most interesting player to watch this season because his performance may provide more info than you would normally glean from spring training.  For Olt, making more consistent hard contact would indicate a return to health. When he's seeing the ball well, he will hit for power.  He will also give you good ABs and play good defense.  The Cubs would take that from their everyday 3B, especially considering Olt's relative youth and cost control.  He's the darkhorse and if he does win the 3B job -- or at least positions himself for an early 2014 call-up, it will force the Cubs to make a decision between Valbuena, who can play 2B, and incumbent Darwin Barney.  Barney has regressed at the plate and is heading into his arb years.  While he may not make a lot of money, there will still be the question of how much the Cubs want to play a defense-only player if he continues to struggle at the plate.

The Farm

The aforementioned Mike Olt will be next on the depth chart if he doesn't win the starting job.  In that scenario, he returns to Iowa where the Cubs will monitor his progress closely.

Next is Christian Villanueva, who should find himself at AAA Iowa next season.  Villanueva is more known for his defense.  As a hitter he's expected to provide average power, though he probably won't hit for a high average.  He also hasn't taken a lot of walks in his career so OBP may not be his strength.  For him it's going to be about great defense and enough pop and OBP to make him relevant on offense.  He's a smart baserunner so that will work to his advantage despite average speed.

Villanueva will find himself in a tough spot if Olt doesn't win the 3B job because he will find himself splitting time with him in AAA.  With Kris Bryant expected to start the year in AA, he won't be able to repeat at Tennessee.  Of course, the Cubs can always hold off on promotions and keep Olt at AAA for a couple of months while Bryant spends a bit more  time in Daytona.  Given Bryant's performance in the AZ Fall league, however, it appears he's more than ready to move on to Tennessee.  Bryant is a polished player with a good approach and excellent mental makeup, so the Cubs haven't hesitated to put him on the fast track.  Some speculate he could be in a Cubs uniform by the end of 2014, though sometime in 2015 seems more likely.  When ready, he'll provide good ABs, a solid OBP, and middle of the order power -- but depending on how things shake out, that may not come at 3B.  Olt and perhaps Javier Baez may beat him to the majors and will get first crack at becoming the Cubs long term 3B.

Speaking of Javier Baez, he should also start the year in AAA Iowa but he'll be at SS for the time being.  With a 23 year old SS already in place in Starlin Castro, Baez may have to change positions.  Most believe that 3B would be his best defensive position, though 2B is also a possibility.  Baez has more than enough raw power to play at 3B.  There are reasons for concern with Baez, namely the high K rate and low BB rate, but both started trending in the right direction by the end of the season.  The fact that Baez performed well in AA as a 20 year old bodes well for his chance at MLB success and with his elite bat speed and the highest ceiling in the system, he has a chance to be an impact player no matter where he plays.

 

 

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  • Lots of decisions. If Olt doesn't win the job it does present some tough decisions to make.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    He will start something of a domino effect if he doesn't open with the Cubs. I would have to think that the Cubs have a plan in the somewhat likely event he isn't ready.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Is there a chance Bryant gets any of reps in spring training?

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    I think he could be there the way Baez was last year.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I meant to have it say outfield reps or is it too soon.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Has Villanueva been announced as a spring training invite yet?

  • In reply to Cubsforlife:

    He's on the roster, so he'll be in ST.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I have to think that at Iowa, Villanueva and Olt will have to share 3B duties, with Olt getting alot of starts at 1B to get his bat in the lineup. I can't think of another plan.

    If Olt hits just OK this spring, you have to think though he'll break camp with the Cubs. He's old enough that he doesn't need more seasoning, just needs to straighten up and either make it.....or not. To me, he would need to kind of stink in Arizona to not make it

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Didn't Olt get a little time in the outfield for Texas prior to the trade?

  • In reply to Zonk:

    It's a tricky situation. Olt can also play OF, so he has some flexibility. I think it's really going to be about how well he's seeing the ball. If he's making loud contact all spring, then I think he gets the job. It may cause the Cubs to make a roster move.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    If Olt makes it, then Valbuena could force Barney into a utility role with Valbuena emerging as the regular 2B guy. .I'd sure like to fast forward to 2015 and see some of the infield clutter resolved.There still remains a roster decision on Vitters who still remains as a top 40 prospect on the Cubs farm. I could see him as a 5th. outfielder candidate.It's not like there's any one standing in his way this coming season.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    They will make it work, but it will take some juggling. Olt can play 3B/1B/OF and Villanueva probably could play some 1B/OF as well. The Cubs don't really have a full time 1B that is expected to be at Iowa (unless Greg Rohan counts, but I don't think he does). They also have a DH spot to get guys ABs. The one issue is the I-Cubs also project to have a bit of a logjam in the OF. Szczur, Silva, and Jackson all figure to get the promotion after finishing at Tennessee last year. All are older prospects so additional AA time doesn't seem likely. They join a group that includes newcomers Aaron Cunningham and Casper Wells and incumbents Vitters and Ha.

    Barring a trade or release, my best guess is Olt and Villanueva rotate through 3B/DH/1B and Vitters and Rohan rotate through 1B/DH/LF spots with the group of OFs.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    There are all sorts of interesting possibilities even if Olt does make the team out of ST. For instance. Do the Cubs then move Valbuena to 2B in place of or in a platoon w/ Barney? How does Olt's successt affect Baez and Bryant? Do they move somewhere else? I've got to believe that Bryant will move to RF anyway and Baez will surely be moved somewhere else. There are just too many guys to choose from at 3B and one of them has to pan out (Olt, Baez, Villanueva).

  • Olt is the most important player in ST this year. If he can show his eye issues are behind him (obviously a big if) then the Cubs can move Valbuena to 2B and the line up looks much better. But I think it's more likely that Olt starts the year at AAA playing some 1B and DH so as to not block Villanueva. He doesn't really need to play 3B full-time, he just needs ABs.

  • johnsickels ‏@MinorLeagueBall 1h
    Cubs prospect Javier Baez: a guy who could hit like Giancarlo Stanton, while playing shortstop.

    This would work for me...

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    I think any team in baseball would take that.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Maybe better. After all , Stanton hoots half his games in a park more favorable to pitchers. Wrigley is a bit more of a hitters park.

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    Our organization has gone from having nobody at 3B to having a logjam. A good problem to have.

    If Olt, Villanueva, Baez, and Alcantara all hit, somebody is going to get traded. Because even if Bryant is moved to RF, there isn't room for everyone. It could be Castro getting traded, just saying.

    Of course there are no guarantees with prospects, but I will virtually guarantee this: The long term solution for 3B is currently in our system. Period.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I would love to be in that scenario.

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    These are the kind of problems you dream about as a GM!
    Can't wait to see the breakdowns at ss, 2b where I think they have several legit MLB prospects also.

  • In reply to AdolphoPhillips67:

    I think 2B will be more interesting as far as a 2014 breakdown. SS is going to be Starlin Castro -- now if he continues to struggle and Baez tears up AAA, it could get interesting for next season.

  • Who are the 1st and 2nd options at 3rd in AAA

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I think the Cubs would love to see Olt take that job, but a Valbuena platoon is probably most likely.

  • Even though Olt isn't a homegrown prospect, he begins the anticipation of the youngsters we have been waiting on to come in and make an impact. Coming off of a serious injury may dampen some expectations and ultimately, results, but it is going to be Item #1 on the list of things to watch in the Spring.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Agreed. I think if you're looking for a preview of the first wave, Olt could be part of that if he's healthy. If he sticks at 3B, suddenly a lot of pieces can start to fit together.

  • I wish Olt the best in winning the job

  • Tried posting this earlier, but was apparently not approved by the moderator or was lost in cyberspace. I think Olt is arguably the biggest Cubs story of ST. If he can win the job, the Cubs have a quality defensive option at 3B with 20+ HR potential. Plus a lineup with Olt at 3B and Valbuena at 2B would look far more promising than Valbuena/Barney.

    I think that even if Olt is over his eye issues, he's likely to start the year at AAA to get ABs. He doesn't necessarily have to play 3B full time at Iowa since he's already a good defensive player. He can play 1B and DH, while letting Villanueva get reps at 3B.

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    I think Olt would really have to flop out of the gate not to win the job.
    He makes a great asset if he can hit. Even with the low average and ridiculous strikeouts. 20+ HR's from a GG caliber 3B is a nice piece of the puzzle. Or a nice piece of trade bait.
    If we're lucky.

  • In reply to Eric Foster:

    He must win the job in order for this to happen

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Wouldn't think it would be too tough to win the job. Not much there.

  • In reply to Eric Foster:

    He has to show he's healthy. He hasn't hit AAA. The Cubs got a lot of production from their 3B platoon last year. I don't think it's that cut and dry.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    If the Valbuena and Murphy platoon moves to 2nd base, then you could really start comparing the Olt production to Barney production. It would be a downgrade in defense, but it would be a net win if he can hit a few bombs with a low average.

  • In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    True. That's a good way to look at it from an offensive standpoint. In that sense it's a win, at least offensively.

  • In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    I disagree. I've seen this brought up before & I laughed at it that time, too. Barney is a mid IFer & Olt a corner. No comparison unless Olt plays 2B & that's not happening. No guarantee that Valbuena repeats his "breakout" year of last year either. Everyone forgets Valbuena's career #s. And I'm not advocating Barney keeping 2B unless he earns it in spring against Murphy, Valbuena & whoever else they bring for SECOND BASE.

  • Great stuff John. I have a feeling we will know who our 3B is going into 2015. Whether that be Olt / Bryant / Baez / Villanueva, I feel pretty good about one of those guys claiming the three bag in 2014.

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    I would love to see Olt step up and win the 3b job out of spring training. He's already 25, so there's a lot of pressure on him to prove he's more than a AAAA player this year. I think he's up to it.

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    Sounds like Villaneuva projects right around the Valbuena level-I just don't see him hitting enough to push Olt, Bryant or Baez. I think both Baez and Bryant come up in June. Just a hunch. I think the bats fill the most needed spot.

  • In reply to Dale Miller:

    I'm not sure he'll be enough of an offensive force. I think the best hope for him is that he becomes a league average 3B, which isn't bad considering cost control, but the Cubs have other prospects with a chance to be better than that.

  • I sure hope Olt can nail down 3B. If he does you have GG caliber gloves at 1B 2B and 3B and Castro who has the ability to flash some serious leather at SS. Plus athletic OF. If pitchers can keep the ball in the park they got guys who can catch it. Just need some bats to wake up.

  • Yes if Olt hits in spring training Olt will be at 3rd and Barney at 2nd.
    with Murphy & Valbuena as backups. Which means in Iowa you have Villanuenva at 3rd, Baez at SS, Alcantera at 2B. That leave: Watkins, Roberts & Vailaka as depth at Iowa. I think Barney gets traded in June or July and thats when we see Baez. He could play 2nd or 3rd depending on how well Olt does. Whats nice is you have Villanueva & Olt who can play 3rd or 2nd and you have Baez, Watkins & Alcantera who can play 3rd,SS & 2nd. So we need 2 of
    these 5 to be successful it sound more doable when you only need a 40% success rate.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    What makes you think they can play those positions?

    To me, Villanueva is strictly a 3B. He doesn't hit enough to profile at corner OF. As it is, even with plus defense at 3B we are hoping he "hits enough" to be league average WAR at 3B. His "squat heavy" build is too cumbersome to play avg defense at 2B.

    Olt is strictly a Corner player. I don't see anything in him that looks like a middle infielder.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Valbuennna played 2b with the Indians several years ago. Hes not Barney defensively, but hes far better than say, Dan Uggla.

  • The New Coach, and EpstHoyer will demonstrate how good they are if Olt doesn't unambiguously grab the starting Cubs 3B job out of Spring Training.

    I suspect unless Olt absolutely tears up ST pitching - he'll start out in AAA. I like Valbuena - he plays the game right,.... but he isn't anybody's long-term answer at any position. My geuss - Valbuena/Roberts open up as a 3B platoon and Murphy makes it as a back-up to just about everybody on the IF - maybe as a platoon with Barney.

    It'll be a juggling act at 3B until Olt or Bryant or Baez or Valaika forces the issue at 3B.

  • Is vitters completely out of the picture?

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    End of season scuttlebutt is that Vitters is being converted to a corner OF spot and given a chance to see if he can stick there. So reportedly he is out of the picture as a 3B prospect.

    He was never much of a high-end defensive 3B prospect anyway. I would love to see him hit well enough in ST and get enough defensive reps at a corner OF spot to show he can do it, and then be carried as a 4th/5th OF and emergency 3B/1B player.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    We'll talk about him for the LF picture. He's in the mix for one of the final two OF spots.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'll be there for the 1st five games. Should have seats amongst the radar guns. I'll try and get video/pics as well as reports and send them along. Can't wait. Lots of questions to be answered. Hope some of these guys step up.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Awesome! Looking forward to that.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Looking forward to it John. Vitters being able to hold down an even part-time position in LF, with a bit of emergency position coverage position elsewhere on defense, helps out (IMO) in getting some offense in the early part of the season before some of the prospects come knocking on the door.

    Vitters being able to cover the position defensively, and hitting enough to be useful, means that he's giving cover time to Bryant, Soler, Beaz to work on their game in AA and AAA, and means that he has some value as a cost-controlled OF or as trade fodder midseaon or next offseason.

    But it all depends on whether Vitters can grab a roster spot for himself and hit well enough to hold it.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    He's done at 3B. He's moving to the OF. There's no scenario where there is room for him at 3B anymore.

  • My guess is that Vitters won't make the team in ST. Cubs might end up releasing the guy.

  • In reply to LRCCubsFan:

    It's going to be a tough battle for him to win a spot.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Vitters is one of those players who gets counted out and then readjusts and surprises me. He's just not a fast tracker IMO. If he got a chance I think he would be a nice 2nd year ML player after he adjusted. Unfortunately he won't get that chance.

  • In reply to CubsBuck22:

    It's always possible he'll be a late bloomer but he's rather limited right now. He is a marginal defender at any position and doesn't hit RHP nearly as well as he hits LHP. He needs to hit a lot to have value at the MLB level. He certainly has the talent to do so but I think he hasn't stayed healthy and hasn't made up the reps during the offseasons. If find it curious that the Cubs didn't try to find him a team. In my opinion the writing may be on the wall with Josh Vitters unless he comes into camp in great shape and ready to fight for a job.

    You may be right. Sometimes when these guys get their backs against the wall, they come out fighting and surprise you. Vitters will have to do that this year.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    He batted .304 with 17 HR's in AAA and yet it seems he's not on the radar. Now's the time for the Cubs to give him a chance since they are not considered contenders anyway. He could be interesting if he comes out hitting in spring training. Any chance he might be a decent outfielder?

  • In reply to CubsBuck22:

    The PCL is a hitter's league and a great percentage of his damage was vs. LHP. I don't think he'll be a great defender anywhere but I didn't like his footwork in the infield, so he won't have to worry about that in the OF. The problem for him there is that he isn't very fast or athletic, so he'll have to work hard to be adequate out there. He's going to have to make up for less than ideal physical ability by getting good reads, taking good angles, etc. His arm is decent and should play fine in the OF.

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    Off topic but interesting. The Reds may trade Homer Bailey for salary room to go after Nelson Cruz or Stephen Drew. I know John you mentioned him as a possible SP target. http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/01/05/reds-could-trade-homer-bailey-to-create-payroll-space/

  • In reply to Sean Holland:

    Now that might be interesting - Bailey has been erratic, but when he is one he is on.

    Any indications what it is that the Reds are looking for in return other than just the salary relief? Haven't read the article as yet.

  • In reply to Sean Holland:

    I saw that too. Bailey would be interesting. I'm curious as to what the Reds would want in return. They are seemingly in win-now mode and I wonder if the Cubs have someone they would want.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Bailey was Jake Arrieta up til he found his command.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    It'd say that's not a bad comparison. Bailey was basically a thrower who relied on great stuff, much like Arrieta is now. Command will dictate where Arrieta goes from here. He doesn't have to be pinpoint like Travis Wood or Kyle Hendricks. It just has to be good enough to keep hitters swinging. As long as they do, he has the stuff to make them miss.

  • Due to some recent persuasive opinions on the possible AAA time crunch between Olt and Villanueva I am no longer worried about their playing time. They are both above average defensively at 3rd and just need to DH or play first in a rotation, with the at bats being the emphasis to further develop. Not ideal but as someone pointed out, they aren't going to lose their defensive skills by missing games here or there at that position.
    I don't see how Olt can bypass Iowa with his issues last year. Why not be patient with getting his offense back on track? However, a lot of people are speculating the job is his to win in spring training.

  • In reply to Abe Froman:

    I've been thinking about that as well. I wonder if they'll let him play at Iowa and rebuild his confidence. On the other hand if he's seeing the ball well this spring that may be a good reason to bring him to the MLB roster so he can get off to a good start.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Fair, and I would love to see that, but with the all sample size and offense friendly Arizona, it may be worse for his development to have to demote him if he falls into a prolonged slump at the major league level. I agree with many previous comments, he is a wild card that would be a tremendous bonus to have turn into a long term solution at 3rd.

    I'm nowhere near as knowledgeable as John or others, but my amateur brain gets scrambled thinking about where ideal positions are for guys like Baez especially if Olt/Bryant play above passable at third and if Alcantara pans out (some prospectus love lately). Trades are one answer, but if not...what? Good problem to have, just curious on projections.

  • In reply to Abe Froman:

    I don't think the Cubs even know where all the chips will fall as far as positions. They probably have an idea but you never really know until they reach the majors and sustain success. I like the idea of Baez at 3B, Bryant in RF, and Alcantara at 2B. If Olt makes it, maybe Baez moves to 2B. Then again, it depends on what happens with Castro, so maybe Baez moves to SS. So many things left to be decided, it's hard to say. But it is a nice problem to have for a change.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Always appreciate you keeping the conversation going in the comments, thanks John.

  • In reply to Abe Froman:

    You're welcome. Thanks for the questions and comments.

  • In reply to Abe Froman:

    I have been thinking the same thing on Olt. I realize that that there's probably an inclination to push him hard, what with all the competition at the high levels of the minors right now. But I just don't think that's what a good boss would do to somebody who has had his issues. I see pushing Vitters with ultimatums, because of the work ethic questions, but Olt has been working his tail off to get things right. I think that deserves patience from the Cubs.

  • Unless the Cubs make some pretty significant signings prior to spring training, I would give the job to Olt and give him a half year or so worth of at bats to see how he does. As has been pointed out, it would be almost impossible for him to offer less offensive value than Barney in the order and Valbuena could easily move to 2b.

  • In reply to Cubz99:

    It is likely a bigger question of whether or not it's the right thing for him from a development standpoint.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I actually really like your idea about Bryant and Villanueva staying put to start the year so that Olt could start at AAA. Couldn't Bryant use a little more time in Daytona? He was barely there and hadn't yet incorporated the patient approach that he should be capable of.

  • In reply to Denim Dan:

    I believe the thinking on Bryant is that he is so far advanced than the others seeing he played 3 years of college, that A+ ball is beneath his development at this point. Added to that, he dominated the AFL so his natural spot would be AA.

    I really believe that if Bryant does very well, we could see him come September. The only think that might slow him getting up to the Cubs might be the development of Olt.

    If Olt his doing well, they might start to let KB play some in RF and that could delay his promotions.

  • In reply to Denim Dan:

    I'd think most assuredly Olt and Villaneuva start the year in AAA (unless Olt breaks with the team, unlikely).

    AAA is usually where teams start to work on position flexibility. Olt and Villaneuva, will split 3B and bounce around the diamond. Olt getting some reps in OF, Villaneuva possibly getting some looks at 2B and OF. Alcantara would likely get some looks at OF too.

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    There was the talk earlier of moving one of the Cubs 3B prospects to the Marlins. I wonder if the solution to a Villanueva/Olt logjam in Iowa isn't to move Villanueva to Miami. As John pointed out above, it's almost inconceivable he breaks ahead of Baez, Bryant, and Olt to be the third baseman here.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Mike what caliber of pitcher would you expect in return for Villanueva? Would be helpful to site a prospect in the Cubs system as a comp.

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    In reply to Abe Froman:

    Hard to say. It could be someone similar to Villanueva -- a guy who is higher in the system with a decent upside but some flaws. Alberto Cabrera maybe as a comp? Cubs really don't have a lot of good pitchers in the upper levels of the system. The Cubs might want to go for someone with a higher ceiling that's further away -- a Paul Blackburn type -- but I could see the Marlins rejecting that idea.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Was sort of thinking the same thing. If Castro can prove last year was just a bad year then maybe the long term plan is in fact to keep him at SS. Then we could see Baez move to 3B and Alcantara slide in at 3B.

    Olt may just be having an audition for the rest of baseball. Then he gets moved next offseason to the highest bidder.

    I just think someone is going to be moved. Most obvious choice right now would be Alcantara or Olt before we see a long term solution starting at Wrigley.

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    I don't think moving Alcantara is a good move. We are a little short on speed, OBA, and left handed hitting. I think Castro would bring the most back and we have guys who could replace him like Baez. But who knows how things will play out.

  • I think 3b will belong to Valbuena/Murphy and 2b to Barney in April and May. After that anything could happen.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    This sounds pretty reasonable to me, but I think it's Mike Olt or nothing for 2014. I think both spend the rest of the year in the minors.

  • Great article John, can't wait to see 2nd base and outfield articles! Do you have any news on what Olt is doing this offseason? Working out in AZ? On his own? I know he isn't in Winter League. Is he working with hitting coaches or doctors to help work out the eye issues? I know he is on allergy medicine but is that really all he needed to fix his vision issues?

    I love the idea of him coming out with a vengeance in ST and winning the 3rd base job but I find it hard to see that happening with him losing so much time/momentum/confidence last year even if his vision problems are solved. Since he isn't playing in winter league, he is going to need plenty of time to knock the rust off and regain some confidence. JMHO

  • In reply to IowaCubbie:

    I have been saying for a while that Olt will need time in AAA to get his confidence back. But if you look at his last couple weeks, 10 games, in AAA last year it looks like he was getting his mojo back then (.333/.488/.467/.954). I wouldn't mind being wrong and he hits from the get go this year. I read somewhere that he feels good now. Keep fingers crossed.

  • In reply to John57:

    Feeling good and seeing clearly in live baseball action are apples and oranges to me.I'm with you on hoping Olt gets the 3B job this year,forcing a resolution on the current 25 man roster, and player positions on our prospects in the minors.

  • In reply to TheRiot2:

    I wasn't clear. He said his eye problems were resolved and he was feeling good. I think the Cubs brought him to a different eye specialist. Looking at his last 10 games last year, he might be telling the truth. It is a very small sample size but encouraging. Hopefully he hits and plays defense like he did in 2012. This would give the Cubs a good problem to have.

  • In reply to IowaCubbie:

    Thanks. I will do LF tonight probably but I am also working on a prospect piece. So we may not see that until mid-day or evening tomorrow.

    You may be right on Olt. The Cubs may want him to get his feet on the ground at Iowa first but if he does, I don't think they'll keep him there long if he he's hitting.

  • Since this article is about 3B, I was thinking about the new 16 year old 3B prospect Wladimir Galindo that we supposedly signed. And my question is, why doesn't he show up as signed by the Cubs? Even the Cubs website has no mention of him. Are we trying to lay low and sign a couple more prospects who turn 16 before next June 15th before anyone else notices?

  • ww.chicitysports.com has him listed as, Reportedly been signed and whatever credence we give to Bleacher Report they as well have him as Reportedly been signed.
    In answer to the signing a few more prospects who reach 16 by June 15 th. That could well be and doesn't surprise me with Theo & Jed huddling to find any advantage before the Yankees go hog wild on signing International Free Agents as the Cubs did this past year.

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    So Ryan theriot retires. He gets a lot of grief in Chicago, probably mostly because of his silly comments when he played for St. Louis, but also because he just wasn't good enough for some peoples expectations. For this reason he was given away for nothing by a team that apparently didn't need him, but he has the ultimate shut-up response - he was good enough to play on two World Series winners.

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