The Cubs current third base situation is akin to placing a work lunch order to a place that you don't necessarily love and aren't sure if you even wanted. Sure, the portabella mushroom sandwich has some potential and the old standby burger and fries combo is food (technically) but you're being forced to pick from a selection that can best be described as a plethora of mediocrity. You might be pleasantly surprised but let's be honest, chances are slim.
Olt clearly has the most potential as he was a Rangers top prospect before a wayward fastball found his dome and messed with his vision. Olt always had a lot of whiff in his game as evidenced by the 20%+ K rates he had through the minors:
With the swing and miss came excellent defense, a mature approach at the plate and decent pop. Heading into 2012 Olt was regarded as the Rangers' best prospect and one of the top talents in all of MiLB.
The potential is clearly there given Olt's pedigree and defensive ability. Luis Valbuena is no slouch with the glove but his plan of attack at the plate limits the offensive upside he brings to the table. Luis walks well enough as he posted a 13.6 BB% last year. His patience at the plate leads to an acceptable OBP but he swings hard at every pitch he thinks he can get. He makes contact but his batting average is subpar.
I talked earlier in the week about how the situation at second base can be significantly altered by who wins the third base job. Should Olt unseat the incumbent Valbuena in 2014 it drastically alters the makeup of the infield. Logan Watkins should find playing time somewhere on this infield, albeit in a part time role.
When we extend the scope out a few years we see a logjam developing at third base. Mike Olt, Kris Bryant, Christian Villanueva and Jeimer Candelario all play third currently and perhaps Javier Baez or Starlin Castro will end up at third in the near future. Kris Bryant has a strong arm but I do wonder about his long term future at the position given the reports on his lack of feel for third. His defensive profile might be better suited for right field.
Villanueva isn't a superstar talent. I doubt he ever develops above average over the fence power and I do wonder about his swing mechanics, but he is a very good defender and he did generate a lot of gap power at Tennessee last year (41 DO's). Candelario is an interesting player. He has a really good idea of where the strike zone is and he's got the lower half of a power hitter (read: Big Ass). The issue with Jeimer will be the glove as it's uncertain whether he can stick at third base long term, but if he hits someone will find a position for him.
Then there's the Baez/Castro situation. Both have the athleticism to stick at short but both also have error issues. Castro has cut his error rate every year since he's been in the league but the gains have been incremental and he's had high profile mental lapses. Javier Baez has the same error issues and his body might just outgrow the position in the long term. His lower half looks like a 3B lower half with thick thighs and big boy calves.
That's a helluva potential logjam on paper. The situation will clear itself up as players will succeed or fail over the next few years. A few of these guys will be traded for other pieces and a few of them will not make it to the MLB level.
In the short term the Cubs are plugging a gap. 3B is fairly thin league wide. I think for now the most ideal situation is the one where Mike Olt wins the job and creates a shuffle in the infield. Over the long term the picture is a bit murkier but in a good way. There's talent there, it just needs to shake out.