As it stands currently the Cubs are slated to break camp with Luis Valbuena as the starting 3B and Mike Olt might be relegated to AAA Iowa. Olt's shot at winning the job out of Spring Training took a serious hit with his shoulder fatigue issues which limited the reps he was able to take at the hot corner.
We've previously talked about what the long term future at 3B holds for the Cubs moving forward, there are a ton of moving pieces that abound, so let's just concentrate on Olt vs. Valbuena for now.
The biggest advantages that Valbuena has are his positional flexibility and batting eye. He has a patient eye that is severely undercut by his inability to make good contact consistently. A .331 OBP is slightly above average for a National League third baseman. In 2013 NL 3B slashed .258/.324/.404. It's a crude measure but for contrast Luis Valbuena slashed .218/.331/.378. He was, overall, a slightly below average player on a bad team. The interesting issue with Valbuena becomes future projection. If you expect the BABIP to regress towards a more normal range and he hits .250 while maintaining similar walk and power rates he becomes an above average player at a position lacking depth league wide.
Valbuena isn't an exciting nor long term package for the Cubs. He does some things well but there are obvious and glaring weaknesses in the player's game that don't exist to the same degree with a healthy Mike Olt (in my opinion). Valbuena will remain in the stopgap role until the Cubs' bevy of infield prospects sort themselves out. After Olt there's Kris Bryant (if you believe he can play on the infield dirt), Christian Villanueva and Jeimer Candelario. We'll see how it all shakes out in the end.
We recently ran an article full of college draft notes which you can read here. There's a lot of interesting takeaways from that conversation. Tyler Kolek is an interesting name to bring up in that drafting Kolek would indicate a longer term focus than drafting a guy like Tyler Beede for example. I happen to think it's far from a forgone conclusion that the Cubs need to draft a pitcher this year as well. Teams tend to role with "best available" rather than draft for need in these spots. Trea Turner is a very, very interesting name who is getting rave reviews from a few different sources. I would not be upset at all with drafting Turner over a pitcher if that's what the decision came down to.
Neither here nor there, but I'm really pulling for Emilio Bonifacio to make this roster. There are tangible baseball production reasons to root for him; he's shown an ability in the past to get on base and steal bases at a high percentage and he has a lot of positional flexibility. Bonifacio is also a Spanish speaking professional player who knows how to handle himself in a clubhouse. That sounds a lot like what got Rick Renteria hired. The Cubs key position players will likely be Spanish speakers; Starlin Castro, Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara at some point, the list could go on. I think Bonifacio could have value on the field and off it.
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