The World Series is over, the Boston Red Sox have been crowned champions over those dreaded St. Louis Cardinals. That means the baseball world can begin looking forward to the 2014 baseball season. The free agency period is about to being, and teams will start looking at all possible players they feel could be a valuable addition to the roster. While the Chicago Cubs will likely look around for some additions in the outfield, the bench and hopefully the pitching staff, one spot they likely will not be looking for someone will be third base. That is because they have one, if not two third baseman waiting in the wings who could be a huge asset to the ball club this coming season.
While just about everyone in Cubs nation is salivating over the prospects of Kris Bryant and how big of an impact he could have on the franchise going forward, I highly doubt he will break camp with the Cubs. This is not because the team does not feel as though he is ready, but likely because they want to keep him cost controlled as long as possible. That means keeping him in the minors until the Super Two deadline passes sometime in May or June.
There is very little doubt that he is major league ready, and there appears to be very little left he can learn playing another year in the minors. However, for a team that is not expected to be competitive, they want to hold off giving raises to arbitration eligible players as long as possible. That leaves one of two people to be your starting third baseman on opening day for the Cubs. In my opinion only one makes sense, and that would be the man we got back in trade for Matt Garza, Mike Olt.
Before last season, Olt had been ranked as one of the better prospects around baseball, and a top three third baseman. Scouts were raving about how talented he was, and how he would be an impact bat with a solid glove when he finally was able to reach the majors. All that was needed was to find him a spot to play, which the Texas Rangers were lacking at the time. Olt was blocked, and would not be seeing the majors any time soon.
However, last season he took a step back due to some vision issues, which hopefully have been dealt with.
If in Spring Training Olt shows that he has overcome his vision issues, and shows anything in Spring Training that proves he is back to his former self, there is no doubt in my mind that he will get the first crack at third base. If not for his vision issues that held him back last season, he likely would have been called up when Luis Valbuena went down to injury. In my opinion, the Cubs need to have Olt start the season as their third baseman. They need to see what they have in him. They need to figure out if he has a place in their organization going forward.
Before you say that Olt does not have a future with the Cubs because Bryant is waiting in the wings, keep in mind that both could very well be on the field at the same time. If Olt is able to play a respectable third base, (meaning defense and offense) Bryant could easily move to the outfield. There is no one standing in his way in left field which might very well belong to Ryan Sweeney to start the year. Bryant may have been drafted as a third baseman, he may have a better and more powerful bat, but his defense may not be that valued as a third baseman.
In a perfect world, Olt is able to return to form, and when Bryant gets the call he slides into left field and does not miss a step. He would not even be blocking any of the other top minor league outfielders from claming their eventual positions either. Albert Almora is your future center fielder and Jorge Soler is your right fielder, maybe as soon as later this coming season. That would be Lake would then be pushed to the bench and be a platoon player, spelling others when they need a day off.
Don’t get me wrong, I am as excited as anyone about seeing Bryant play at Wrigley. I cannot wait to see him hitting homers over the ivy covered wall, but Olt absolutely should get the first crack at that position in 2014. In a year that is already tabbed as being another lost year, there is absolutely nothing to lose by making this decision.