Mike Olt Thoughts

The general assumption is that the Cubs will hand over the third base duties to Luis Valbuena and Donnie Murphy to start the season. I figured that Mike Olt would have a chance to win the opening day job out of spring training with a solid showing in Arizona but a bout with shoulder fatigue has limited his reps at the hot corner and he might just have to wait an extra month before earning a call up to the show.

Olt is an interesting case. He's battled back from vision problems and now has a longer road ahead of him than expected with the shoulder issue. He's had a decent spring with the stick and still has an outside shot at breaking camp with the big league team but the limited showing at third base hurts him. I've long thought that Olt makes sense as the interim starter who bridges the Cubs from now until some of the 3B prospects start knocking on the door. I still think that's a viable plan but the timetable is likely going to be pushed back some with Olt's shoulder setback.

Currently, the Cubs roster is in a state of flux. The old names we've grown accustomed to over the past few years are gone and they are being replaced right now with bargain bin free agents, players acquired via trade and now prospects who are starting to bubble to the top of the organization. We've all pontificated on what the roster can look like in 3 years time and we all have our own version of a dream infield scenario. For me Olt doesn't figure in long term to those plans as I don't see him sticking with the Cubs should the infield prospects shake out. Christian Villanueva and perhaps even Javier Baez make more sense to me at the hot corner than Olt for various reasons.

Olt is a nice insurance plan and stopgap in the interim, however. I think eventually the third base job becomes his as Valbuena and Murphy aren't exactly seen as franchise changers. There's still a few obstacles ahead of Olt, but the path is becoming clearer as he's passing hurdles each day.

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  • Mauricio - Am not sure if I agree with you on the short-term fix status of Olt as 3B. Given - until we see him able to handle the position defensively, or if he is going to have durability issues, its mostly an academic arguement.

    He's already (supposedly) a near finished product defensively at 3B.

    If Baez were to be moved there, he would have to make a defensive adjustment and get comfy.

    Bryant appears to have a bat that will let him play anywhere, and the athleticism to cover an OF spot well, in addition to being what appears to be at least an adequate 3B at the ML level.

    Villanueva can cover the position defensively - maybe as well as Olt, maybe better, but appears to have less upside at the plate.

    Now fact is - IF all of these guys continue to progress and make it as ML players,.... somebody is going to have to get traded. Olt might be moved - just because IF he holds down the spot this year, he's got the biggest in-value return if traded. But any of these guys can have the same things said about them.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Hey Well stated.
    I agree that Olt can play defense and he has proven that. There is n ot any reason to send him down. As a rebuilding team, you must play a rookie when he is ready and let him learn via experience. Olt already spent a year at AAA. If they send him down it would be a financial savings so that they get more in a trade. I say risk he is the long term solution to the third base problem.
    Baez and Bryant should be the left fielder and right fielder respectivly.
    ALOMAR IN CENTER AND YOU HAVE YOUR STARTERS TO GO WITH rIZZO AT FIRST, aLCANTARA OR Villaneva at 2nd with Castro at SS and Olt at third. Play them soon at quit trying to save money while it costs the cubs more in lost revenue in sold tickets, and TV attendance. Cub fans are tired of ownership pretending they are making choices for the best interest of the team vs the owners wallet.

  • It will be interesting to see how the Iowa staff would handle the logjam at third if Olt starts there.
    While Olt could play first or DH, I would think they would want himto get reps at the hot corner. Villanueva's value is at third also, so it would not make sense to move him off third. Then add in Javy getting playing time at third, it seems like Olt would cause all kinds of problems if he doesnt break camp with the Cubs.

  • I have no idea what Olt could bring long term. I can envision Villaneuva being the best fielder for sure, and probably having a better hit tool. He might be more athletic. I really don't know. I only know what I read; mostly here!

    The Cubs are going to have surpluses. Those would be 3B and Middle infield.
    The Cubs are going to have shortages as projected now: Top of the order speed, left handed hitting. I am not one who worries too much about lefty-righty matchups. If you have a right handed hitter who hits .330 of righties, what difference does it make? Are you going to sub him for a left-handed hitter that hits .270 off righties? Same with pitching! I think match-ups can be over-played. But, not knowing the outcomes of these prospects, it appears we are short-handed with left-handed hitting.

    If Baez moves to 3B, and Alcantara can move up and be productive offensively, that would help with two issues. Speed and left-handed hitting (swith-hitter). I think before Baez moves up, this wonderful log-jam of prospective starters needs to be sorted out.

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    You have to look at it from the other side. There are some RHPs who struggle more against LH hitters because it reduces the effectiveness of their breaking pitch -- especially RHPs who have dominant breaking pitch and a so-so change. Those kind of pitchers tend to excel vs. RH hitters and struggle more vs. LH hitters and if you don't have a balanced lineup and can't exploit your opponents weakness, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Chad Billingsley immediately comes to mind. Jared Weaver used to struggle mightliy against lefties, but hes developed a nice CU and cutter, so hes better against them then he once was.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Good point. Also, a right handed hitter who hits 330 against righty's in a balanced lineup might find that more difficult in one that is not balanced. Also, it will effect one's power numbers.

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    I like what you said, but believe Olt may be the soluition and the only way to find out is to let him play now.
    The cubs should use their extra players to trade and aquire a great left handed catcher. They are hard to find and harder to draft as it is a difficult position to evaluate and draft.

  • If he needs rest and some ABs in AAA so be it. I still hope he wins
    the job

  • If Olt is able to hit 30 homers and offer plus defense at 3B I think he's a keeper. Baez is probably better off at 2B anyway and it's still very possible that Castro is not a long term fixture at short. A lineup with Rizzo, Olt, Baez, Bryant, Soler, and Vogelbach would be a home-run hitting machine.

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    In reply to Paulson:

    Wherevdoes Vogelbach/Rizzo play in that scenario?

  • In reply to Matt McNear:

    Major League Baseball decides to apologize for the IFA and draft spending restrictions that were implemented right when Theo and Jed came to Chicago and throw the Cubs a bone by implementing the DH league-wide.

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    In reply to Jim Weihofen:

    You've got my vote! I won't be holding my breath, however...

  • In reply to Matt McNear:

    Ralph Kiner, Hank Sauer, Dave Kingman and Alfonso Soriano all played left field. There is no reason why Vogelbach couldn't play there.

    If he hits as well as his projected ceiling, they will find a place for him in the lineup.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    There is about 100 different reasons Vogelbach couldn't play there.

    First of all, Ralph Kiner was one of the greatest hitters in the history of the game, can we please drop him from this discussion? He is a gigantic outlier here and mentioning him with the rest of these guys is a disservice to him.

    As for the rest, Kingman had as much raw power as any player in baseball history, so getting type of potential into the lineup was worth considering, but I bet there were years that his defense ruined most of his offensive output. Adam Dunn was basically the left handed version of Kingman, with the caveat that Dunn was also an OBP machine, and his defense still probably erased most of his offensive value. Soriano was an incredible athlete and one of the few 40/40 guys in the history of the game. And again, his defense really cut into his value.

    So you have basically mentioned guys that brought an offensive talent or at the least the potential for an offensive talent that few players in the entire history of the game brought to the table. Those are the type of guys that teams will put up with terrible defense in LF for (but even then, the results detract so much that it is barely worth it in some cases). Vogelbach, while projecting to be a good MLB hitter is nowhere near the type of force that those guys were/could have been. Putting Vogelbach in LF is/was/will continue to be a terrible idea. Unless he reaches every iota of his offensive ceiling it is not even a consideration worth having.

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    In reply to DaveP:

    Even if that were a possibility, the lineup mentioned also includes: Olt, Bryant, anf Soler. Unless he intends to put one of them in center, LF is taken. Most of the guys you mentioned, I've never seen play, but Soriano and Adam Dunn were both FAR more athletic than Vogelbach.

  • In reply to Matt McNear:

    Still left is the beat place to hide a defensive weakness and lack of athleticism. Who says Vogelbach will have less power than Kingman or Dunn and he could carry a 50+points higher average. Also, reports have him running faster than originally expected with good instincts on the basepaths. Factor in his work ethic and a center and right fielder with good range and who knows?

  • In reply to DaveP:


    Maybe the natiuonal league wil have a DH by the time Volgelbach is ready to play in the majors?

  • In reply to Paulson:

    Add in Almora, Castillo and Alcantara too who can hit HRs. I am assuming since you are putting Vogelbach in there that the NL went DH.

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    As much as i'd like Olt to come north with the team, I think 2-4 weeks in AAA is the way to go. Valbuena isnt stinking up the joint so its not the worst scenario. I think we start preparing ourselves for Castro to move positions or traded if his 1 tool, hitting comes around. I dont know if you can have a SS that cant concentrate, if he can fix that, maybe he can stick at SS. I think its going to be Baez at SS, until his body moves him to 3B. Olt, Castro, Villanueva could be the trade bait in 2015/2016 to get pitching. Nice to see we may have a surplus finally.

  • I don't really get the point of keeping him in Iowa to begin the season unless his shoulder injury is still lingering but, if he's playing 3rd tonight then he should be good to go come April

  • In reply to Javier Bryant:

    It depends on how much he can bounce back on a day to day basis. If he's not able to play 3B everyday, then Iowa would be about the flexibility to play him at 3B one day, 1B the next, maybe DH from time to time. If he's in Chicago, he'd have to play 3B everyday.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    If he's not fully healthy enough to play 3B full-time, then I agree to send him to Iowa. However if he's deemed healthy enough, to me it should simply come down to his bat. As far as I can tell there aren't any concerns with his fielding skills, so if his bat is deemed good enough now, why wait to bring him up?

  • Villanueva is potentially a future GG caliber defender at 3B. He's that good. But Olt is no slouch with the glove as he is a plus defender himself. Maybe just a tick behind Villanueva. Villanueva & Olt will ultimately have similar OPS's. Villanueva's avg will be higher, but his slugging comes from dbl's vs HR's. Given the potential of playing half the games @ wrigley I think that gives Olt an advantage. Plus Olt is better suited to play all 4 corner positions if needed. Villanueva's not quite as versatile or as athletically gifted in that regards.

    Olt is supposed to start at 3B tonight. So we'll see how that goes. He doesn't really have anything to prove over there, except that his shoulder is healthy. So whether he takes the job now or in 30 days, once he's there and assuming he reaches his ceiling. I don't see them trading him. He's signed through his premium years and wont be a FA til he's 30+. I think Villanueva will come up around Sept and get a cup of coffee. Then I believe they'll trade away Villanueva during the winter assuming they both hit their ceiling. Given the success rate of prospects, one of these (or both) can still fail and this problem may sort itself out...

  • Mike Olt only had 33 AB's with Texas in 2012. What is his arbitration status? Would sending him down for some time help his value?

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    He has 2 option years left. Meaning he can be sent down this season and next without having to pass through waivers. Then he has 4 arbitration years before he can elect FA. He will be 31 then.

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    In reply to Quasimodo:

    It's a legit question, though monkeying with service time makes sense only for the high-dollar stars like Baez, where a few days service time can mean millions. For Olt, unless he reaches his ceiling, I don't think service time is a huge consideration. Same goes really for anyone that doesn't have an all-star ceiling

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I doubt that Olt will reach his ceiling, since the vast majority of prospects do not reach their ceiling.. But that is the first time I have heard that he wouldn't be an All Star if he reaches his ceiling.

  • I think now is the time to be conservative with injuries, ala Arieta. If the injury can get resolved by taking time off so be it. Olt can contribute big time this year so why get impatient, whether it's in Iowa or Chicago?

    Side note- scary moment with Javier last night. Would there be a lower risk of injury if he's at 3rd vs. 2nd for the long term? I know his bad plays anywhere and we might see more 'value' at 2nd, but if there is even a slight improvement in risk aversion I would think it's worth discussing.

  • In reply to rsanchez11:


  • In reply to rsanchez11:

    Actually, I like "his bad plays anywhere," with right definition of bad.

  • In reply to rsanchez11:

    "bat" plays .......

    I knew what you meant, and I am a lousy typist so I am sometimes incomprehensible.

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    no idea why you think Olt doesn't figure into the long range plans. This was the #22 prospect in all of MiLB 2 years ago, an untouchable trade chip in a deep farm system in 2012, a guy the Cubs FO targeted in at least one trade negotiation that fell through, and took again the second time around. It was a risk to take him with his injury, but this is not a throw-in, or a change of scenery guy like Ian Stewart. If his eyes are back, he's back. Now, could he be a future trade piece in a package for a pitcher or a LH OF hitter? Sure he could, but so could Castro, Soler, even Baez for the right price.
    As for giving him the 3b job, I don't really need to see him play 3rd to give it to him. A 3b needs quick feet, soft hands and a strong arm, which were never affected by his eye injury. You don't forget how to play 3rd base, and you don't need a lot of reps to get your timing back. The only question was his bat, and now his sore shoulder - If his bat plays and his shoulder feels good, I say put him at 3rd and then decide what to do with Valbuena/Murphy/Barney.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Exactly, well said!

  • In reply to SKMD:

    I agree with you. Olt was an elite prospect at the end of the 2012 year. The eye and concussion problem dimmed his star but he seems to be over that. If he hits 30 HRs and 100 RBI with GG caliber defense, that is All-Star material and he could be more than a bridge player. And since he is a little older, we control him through his prime years making him inexpensive. With all of the other young studs eventually costing a lot, he may fit in well financially.

  • In reply to John57:

    I'm not sure we should project this type of production, and if Castro bounces back, Baez comes up, Alcantara and Villanueva hit their mark, a stop gap he may become. I hope he hits that ceiling though, but I'm more inclined to agree with Mauricio. If we didn't have the log jam coming, I would be all about keeping him though, and with injuries and a few prospects fizzling out, he may be the best answer, which certainly isn't a bad thing if he even hits 15-20 dingers, 75RBI with good OBP, a .250ish average and solid D.

  • In reply to John57:

    "If he hits 30 HRs and 100 RBI with GG caliber defense, that is All-Star material and he could be more than a bridge player"

    I think that's a pretty hollow statement. It pretty much says if he's an elite 3rd basemen he's more then a bridge player, isn't that obvious?

    Those numbers are for the very elite of the position, less than a handful of guys.

  • In reply to Jimmie Ward:

    Yes I agree with you I think it is obvious. That is why I don't see why some people say he will only be a bridge player to when our good prospects come up. He could be traded for whatever we need but so could a number of guys. I am just saying he could be here for a while. He is not just a placeholder.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Precisely, realistically, though, since they have already moved Villaneuva to AAA we will know today what the plan is with Olt. If he can play 3B without a hitch tonight, as expected, then we are looking at our new starter at 3B for opening day. If not, it seems like his assignment will just be a formality.

    Realistically, the Cubs will not be moving Villanueva, who is viewed by many as the best 3B in all of the minors, from his typical home. If Olt gets demoted to AAA, it will be to play 1B and/or DH. This indicates to me that he will only be there for as long as his arm is giving him problems, and as soon as it clears up he will be with the major league squad. As usual, this is conjecture, but the better bet is that we will see him suiting up with the rest of the MLB club come April.

  • I agree with many here. I just don't see him as a "wood chip" on the floor. He either will make his mark, or he will be viable trade bait. But right now for me, he looks like a problem! A good problem!

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    Exactly,.... quality depth at any position is never a bad problem to have,.... You just have to figure out the best way to use that depth.

    And sometimes - the best use is to move part of that depth for some other piece your team is lacking.

  • John, with all the trade rumors out there which, if any, might happen

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Going to be a lot of scouts watching Samardzija today.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Will have a post up on this shortly.

  • I am a believer in the idea that when you bring a young player up, the intention is to keep him up here.

    If they rush things with Olt (or Baez) and then have to send them down, that could play on them mentally.

    Olt needs to show he can play 3B everyday. It is going to be a very cold April and that could play havoc with his shoulder. If he shows he can't play 3-4 days in a row for the whole game, send him to Iowa to work his way back and then bring him up to stay.

    Same idea with Baez. His HR's are cool and fun to watch, but his K and BB rates are poor right now. He needs work at AAA.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    That is an excellent point. A guy with a recent history of a sore shoulder might be better off starting out in Tennessee, or even Daytona for a few weeks.

    That is why I am in no hurry to get Arietta to Wrigley in April.

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    might have some answers today as Olt is playing 3rd

  • I think the writer is selling Olt short. He could be the best of all of the prospects. He's 25 yrs old. He hit 28 home runs and drove in 82 runs in 95 games in AA ball in 2012. That translates to 48 Hr and 140 rbi over 162 games. He was Baseball America's No. 22 prospect that year. This guy is a force when he is healthy. Not exactly what I would call a "stopgap in the interim".

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