The Cubs 12-21 start puts them in a position now where they are very unlikely to compete this season, so it's time to invest in the young talent and it starts with Mike Olt.
I've been more patient than most about Olt and his playing time. The kid has tremendous power and solid skills at 3B but I was okay with not throwing him into the fire after a rough finish to his AAA season. His playing time was sporadic in spring training, though he did make the most of it. He was still recovering from shoulder and eye issues. And for April, you have to play the guys who give you the best shot to win.
So when the Cubs broke Olt in slowly and tried to match him up, that was fine by me. When he struggled, I didn't buy the rationale that he should play everyday so the Cubs "can see what they have." I believe they had a pretty good idea what they had -- and that was a talented ballplayer who was not quite ready for the majors, so they didn't want to throw too much at him. And it showed. Olt struggled with things he never struggled with in the minors -- his approach and his defense. He didn't hit for much power and he was striking out at an alarming rate -- 35% of his PAs through April.
Olt has now homered in his past two games and so the calls for him to play have become louder. This time I agree.
It's not so much because of the two HRs, but since the calendar turned to May, I've noticed that the quality of his ABs have gotten better, he has made more contact, and his defense has become more consistent. It's just a small sample size but I like the way Olt is adjusting and the way his approach has improved of late.
I think he's ready to get his shot to play everyday and as long as he can maintain the good ABs and the acceptable contact rate (5 Ks in 19 PAs in May), he should stay there for the rest of the season.
As the weather warms and more baseballs begin leaving Wrigley, Olt's power is going to become more and more of an asset to the team, and with him seeing the ball better of late and working counts, you hope he continues to give good ABs and supplement what we expect to be a low batting average with walks.
Now this doesn't mean I think the Cubs should bench Luis Valbuena. He moves to 2B with an occasional start at 3B vs. RHP and Emilio Bonifacio plays CF vs. RHP and 2B vs. LHP. Darwin Barney moves to a utility role.
Valbuena and Bonifacio are solid role players for the present and they should still play because they've earned it. but I also think they are the kinds of players you can move to accommodate an opportunity for a player like Olt, who mayyet be potential piece of the puzzle.
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