Kalish, Olt could gradually shift lineup toward younger, more athletic group

Just spitballing a little here, but there were some subtle but interesting little trends that continued in today’s exhibition game vs. the Giants.  It wasn’t a game that featured many likely Opening Day starters but the presence of three players may signal a desire to gradually shift to a younger more athletic team.

We all know that the Cubs are eventually going to get younger and more athletic anyway, probably by 2015, but the process could start sooner.

We’ve talked about Mike Olt playing well and getting closer to playing 3B.  The word out of Arizona has been that the Cubs would like to see him win that 3B job.

We’ve also seen Emilio Bonifacio consistently bat in the leadoff spot while playing multiple positions.  It’s doubtful he’ll secure a starting spot, but I’m beginning to wonder if he’ll get a good share of ABs as a supersub while giving the Cubs a speedy leadoff hitter who is willing to take pitches — or maybe even start if the Cubs decide to move Barney, though I find that unlikely at this point.

The latest news comes from Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, who suggests that Nate Scheirholtz may be made available with Ryan Kalish impressing this camp.

There is something of a trend with all 3 of those players.  They are all more athletic than the guys they’d potentially replace.  They’re all capable of taking walks at about the major league average or better, and two of them (Olt, Kalish) would make the team a little younger.

Those changes may not happen by Opening Day, but they could be the first group to shake up the lineup and inject some much needed speed, OBP, while also maintaining a solid defense.

If those three players continue to make progress, could we see an all under 30 lineup like the following sometime early in the season?

  1. Emilio Bonifacio, 2B (29)
  2. Ryan Kalish, LF (25)
  3. Starlin Castro, SS (24)
  4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B (24)
  5. Mike Olt, 3B (25)
  6. Ryan Sweeney, RF (29)
  7. Welington Castillo, C (26)
  8. Junior Lake, CF (24)

You’d also have Justin Ruggiano filling in against LHP to add some power an as insurance in case any of the outfielders get hurt or struggle.  The Cubs also have Valbuena, who would be the more likely starter with Bonifacio as a supersub if the Cubs move Barney.

You may lose a little power by moving Schierholtz, but if you don’t think he’s part of the long term solution, it may be best to get a player such as Kalish in the lineup who is still young enough to be the LH hitting long term piece the team lacks.

The team may regain some of that power with Olt replacing Valbuena and while losing Darwin Barney’s defense would hurt, Bonifacio is a solid defender at 2B.

The moves could be a potential slight upgrade in speed, athleticism, and OBP while retaining the power and defense from last season.

It isn’t likely to happen to open the season but if the Cubs can find a way to add some depth/youth in other areas by moving Schierholtz and Barney, perhaps it’s something the Cubs should consider if they don’t get off to a strong start this year.  Potentially, it’s an overall upgrade and the Cubs may even find a long term piece or two as we wait for the prospects to come in.

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    Sweeney to me is redundant with Schierholtz. I could see a move or two (small) before we break camp.

  • In reply to Dale Miller:

    They are similar -- but you could make the argument that Kalish and Sweeney are even more similar. I do like the more athletic younger team out there with the hopes you find a guy or two that sticks long term.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I like the idea of Kalish reaching his potential. Vitters has looked promising as a right handed bat, wouldn't rule him out. With Bryant and Baez tearing it up...the future looks bright.

  • In reply to Roe Skidmore:

    I don't get the Kalish positive vibes. Lifetime minor league 162-game averages: .260's 7 HR, 52 RBI 26 steals ( but that was pre-injuries). Sounds pretty triple aaa to me.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    That's more what I was thinking. Nate S. also doesn't play CF. But, he'd bring the greater return in my opinion, especially if he's packaged. So that could be the determining factor in who goes/stays as well.

    I like the gamble of going younger. Really, with this plan by Theo & Jed, what do they have to lose when Nate S. will be a free agent at the end of the year any way. If Kalish fails, you still have Ruggiano, Lake & Sweeny & whoever may be the 5th, plus the 3 at Iowa to draw upon.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Nate Silver?

  • In reply to Dale Miller:

    Sweeney can't be traded until the season starts I think, because he was signed in the offseason... So if one of them goes, it'll likely be Scheirholtz, IMO...

  • In reply to Caps:

    I like Schierholtz veteran presence. I think they need at least one everyday player with more than a few years experience. Rizzo and Castro don't fit that mold yet.

  • In reply to Dale Miller:

    Why? One can start, the other off the bench. Having a good lefthanded bat off the bench is not a bad thing. Neither make any significant money or are blocking a better young player from getting playing time.

  • Not a fan of Bonifacio's defense at 2B, I've been seeing him play since he was something like 18 during Winter Leagues in the DR... But he wouldn't be too bad as a stopgap at 2B, especially if he can maintain an average obp (which would essentially turn him into a 30-40 SB threat for a full season).... Peter Gammons also had good reviews about Kalish... And while I think reports are premature, if the Cubs can get some value for Schierholtz, they should strike, given the fact that he's a FA after the season anyway.

    Also keep in mind, that it doesn't need to be Kalish necessarily, Emilio Bonifacio could play CF, sliding Sweeney to RF.

    If all goes well, my preference is for the Cubs to start the season with Olt and Bonifacio in the lineup.

  • In reply to Caps:

    I hear you. He can be okay to solid there but a downgrade from Barney. I think Bonifacio's best role is as a supersub but I put him at 2B to show what the lineup could look like from time to time.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    True... And I agree... With a team lacking offense so much, if I was to pick a spot for Bonifacio, I would pick 2B... But he's so versatile that I bet he could get some 300 at bats while rotating between 2B/SS and the OF.

  • In reply to Caps:

    I think that's how I'd prefer to do it. I clarified that a bit in the article. You could put Valbuena and get some solid OBP and power vs. RHP.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    If Barney returns to spraying the ball to all fields and working the count instead of swinging for the fence, his stock will go up.

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    In reply to Roe Skidmore:

    I doubt it goes up much. Even in his best season (2011), despite a .276 average, Barney's OPS was still just .666, which was second worst among all MLB second basemen. The decent average was deceptive because he still didn't walk/get on base much and has virtually no power.

  • John, I gotta say that the notion that Ryan Kalish is a possible long term solution to anything comes at a huge surprise. Ive been swamped lately so maybe i missed something about him, but what has he done to all the sudden be in the mix as a long term starter, I..e., a core piece?

  • In reply to TTP:

    Remember when you look at the spring you're not looking necessarily at results. You're looking at process -- the quality of ABs, defense, contact, etc. Kalish has impressed consistently in that sense. He was a well regarded prospect who was really only held back by injuries. He could be a real find if he's healthy. You could say something similar for Olt.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    That said, Kalish as a long term solution is a long shot.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    kalish if he returns to what scouts thought of him before the injuries is a ML starting level OF , starting to see it this spring . at worst he is a 4th OF type on a very good team if he comes close to what he was thought of pre injuries .

  • In reply to TTP:

    I don't think he's necessarily being seen as a core piece or long term starter, more as a short term solution... But if it helps... According to Peter Gammons, he's been running well and swinging the bat well this Spring... And finally looks healthy.

    Before his injuries, I think the Red Sox planned on making him an everyday OF... So they may think that guy is back.

  • In reply to TTP:

    Kalish doesn't have to be a core piece, or even a long term starter. If he is an incremental improvement, then he should play until the next, better, player comes around, core piece or not.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Even if he's the same as Schierholtz in terms of value, you can get a nice prospect for Schierholtz and basically bake your cake and eat it too... But if they do trade Schierholtz, I don't think it's because they will put all their faith in Kalish and if they do, then it speaks volumes as to how much they value him.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Good way to put it.

  • I'm surprised Chris Coghlan isn't getting mentioned more. He doesn't hit with Nate's Power, but if he's healthy, he can be a young, athletic, cost controlled, and valuable role player as well...

    One things for certain, we have glutton of 4th/5th OF prospects/players between AAA/MLB rosters. Just waiting for the mainstays like Almora & Soler, etc to cement it all together.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I'm not as big a fan. In my opinion, he's an extra outfielder type at best. Solid hitter but not enough to carry a corner on an everyday basis.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    He hasn't really been healthy since his rookie season. It's hard to say how much that has impacted him in his limited AB's since then. Obviously, as ROY, he warranted an everyday job, OPS'ing .850, but I still think of all of these guys not named Almora/Soler as 4th/5th OF'r types. Schierholtz, Sweeney, Lake, Ruggiano, Kalish, Szczur, Silva, Ha, etc, etc, etc,... None of them are everyday players on a championship squad. But surely, we'll keep a couple of them for platoons/roles...

  • One thought that intrigues me is the possibility of a late season lineup that includes Mike Olt in LF, Lake in CF, Baez at 3B and Alcantara at 2B... Not totally out of the question, considering that Alcantara will need to find plenty of at bats so they know where he fits... In that case, Schierholtz and even Sweeney could be made expendable rather soon.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Possible. That's one way to squeeze them all in.

  • In reply to Caps:

    That's an awful lot of shifting just to accommodate Alcantara. Why not just throw him in the outfield and leave Javier & Olt at 2B & 3B where they'll be playing everyday?

    Alcantara is not going to outplay either of them defensively or offensively so...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Well, I didn't say that wasn't possible, you can put Alcantara in the OF too if he learns how to play it... I just used Olt because he has some experience in the OF... Other than the handful of official games played, he did practice some OF during ST with the Rangers and he went to Winter Ball to play the OF when he suffered the concussion... But either way, regardless of who learns the OF, it might be possible that they find a way to get them all at bats late in the season to see where they all fit.

  • In reply to Caps:

    They'll certainly have to get creative so all of the call ups get some AB's. Because at about the same time Alcantara is ready, Villanueva, Szczur, etc, will be looking for AB's then too. Then there's Soler, if he rakes at AA; he's already on the 40-man so... What if Vitters or B-Jax is either established on the MLB/AAA squads by then?... I just don't see them moving core pieces around in the field to accommodate getting a look at Alcantara. Which is what I interpreted your original post to insinuate.

    Unless Baez & Castro one is injured/fails, Alcantara's best shot for significant playing time with the MLB club in 2015 is to outplay Junior Lake, etc in CF.

    Injuries/trades/development, etc will all play a part in this before the time actually comes. Who knows, we could have a massive sell of current MLB players and there's plenty of playing time for them all....

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    If we have a problem where they're having a hard time finding a spot for Alcantara, then it would be a good thing because it would likely mean that the guys already playing are all doing good.

  • I think over a full season, "if healthy", Kalish outplays Nate S. And, I wouldn't mind seeing some of the other depth guys make the team even if not.

    If we can get some value for Nate, let's do it in my view.

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    Yes, I think that's how you have to look at it. Like Caps said, if you can get the same production and also pick up a small piece for Shierholtz you should do it. I like the idea of Kalish too simply because there could be some upside left.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree completely. So, hypothetical. Nate S + (whom) for Rick Porcello of the Tigers? Grimm?

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    After trading Fister to the Nats, I don't think the Tigers will be shopping Porcello anytime soon... But personally, I wouldn't mind a prospect like Jake Thompson and a live arm like Drew VerHagen.

  • I don't get it. Kalish has a lifetime .243 average and is sub-200 this spring. In what universe should we even pretend will be a semblance of a starter?

  • In reply to cubsdude74:

    There is a lot more that goes into evaluating a baseball player than short sample batting averages taken with zero context.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    With all due respect - I follow the site religiously - there is plenty of context. Kalish has had an injury-riddled, inconsistent minor league career. I'm all for trading for Schierholtz is we get a good prospect, but to suggest there's any indication Kalish is a starter is a reach. That being, I hope I'm prove wrong and he turns up his value.

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    I think the enthusiasm over Olt is premature. Are we sure his regression was all about the vision, and even if it was, who's to say if those problems are behind him? I seriously doubt the Rangers would have let him go almost seemingly as a throw-in if they thought he was still the guy they thought they had in 2012.

  • In reply to Gregory Shriver:

    Maybe the Rangers were premature in giving up on him?

  • In reply to Gregory Shriver:

    Is it so much enthusiasm for him though or is it merely enthusiasm for the opportunity to end the definition of placeholders Valbuena/Murphy platoon? At least with Olt there is a chance for a long term solution. And at 25, its not like they are going to be hurting his long term outlook by throwing him in the deep end.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Olt or Bryant at 3B would have to be better than last couple years...

  • In reply to Roe Skidmore:

    The Cubs actually got very good production from 3B last year (I think it was 30 HR). The issue is none of it was accomplished by anyone with a long term future with the team (though maybe Valbuena could stick around a while in a UT role). Chances are Olt will provide far less production than we received from the position last year, but at least it has a chance of building toward something.

    Olt is 25 and has 3 players behind him that can play 3B (Baez, Bryant, Villanueva) that figure to be ready by next April. If he doesn't grab the job this year he gets pushed to the bench. Maybe his best role in the future will be as a platoon partner for Rizzo or as a power bat off the bench that can handle any of the corner spots. Both of those roles have great value.

  • In reply to Gregory Shriver:

    The Rangers gave up a lot of good young players for 2 months of a pitcher. They gave up two good players for 2 months of Dempster.

    The Rangers are not above making errors in judgment.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    That and desperate people do desperate things. Let's not forget, they were in "Win now" mode. If they had won a WS title, the cost is rather insignificant. Let's hope we're in the position to be selling off prospects for a player or two that will give us our shot soon....

  • In reply to Gregory Shriver:

    Not necessarily just a throw-in in my opinion. Garza was viewed as a TOR pitcher. Edwards was the long term piece in that deal for sure. But Perez is projected only as a #3 or #4 starter. Grimm was more the throw-in. That leaves Olt. Just the year prior he was viewed as 1 of their top prospects. Vision issues, sure he had it, but that's part of the gamble both sides took. They wanted (needed) Garza so they pulled the trigger at the Cub's asking price.

    This could be "the trade" of Theo's & Jed's Cub legacy. Just think if all of those guys click. Edwards a #3, 2 or maybe a #1. Perez a #3. Olt a starting 3Bman & Grimm either a really good setup or backend of the rotation. Or anyone of them being flipped for a nice return at some point. This could be the deal of the century.

    I've said this in a previous article, but I bet when the prospect "dominoes" (as John calls them) start to fall & Baez & Bryant are ready, Olt or Soler will be shopped in some sort of package & bring back that TOR candidate the Cubs lack. All those guys are RH, w/the RH Almora following them at some point, not to mention the RH Szczur. There's no way they all start together on the same team as currently constructed. And no way they platoon them either. At least not their 1st 2 years. It's going to get crowded at some point & that's a very good problem to have.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    The Cubs did not get Perez in the trade with Texas.

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    In reply to John57:

    I believe he meant Ramirez.

  • I'm not ready to get rid of arguably our best outfielder hitter before the season starts. I like the platoon of Shiergianno.

  • Is it just me, or does ST seem really short this year? I mean, March 31 is 3 weeks from yesterday. Suddenly the injuries to Castro, Sweeney, Arrieta, Olt, and Everyday Jimmy (dead arm) are becoming a cause for concern.

  • My ideal early season lineup:
    2B Bonifacio
    SS Castro
    1B Rizzo
    LF Ruggiano
    RF Schierholtz
    3B Olt
    CF Sweeney
    C Castillo
    Bench: OF Kalish, OF Lake, IF Valbuena, UT Roberts

    Bonifacio, Roberts and Kalish take the roster spots of Barney, Murphy, Jackson (Kalish essentially is Jackson with better contact rates).

    Ideally for their development Lake and Kalish would be playing everyday in Iowa, but if I was actually trying to win as many games as I could this year, this is the team I go north with.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Quick amendment: If I'm actually trying to win as many games and development be damned, then without question Baez and Bryant are on the team. But both of those guys are significant long term pieces that I am not willing to take chances on their development. Guys like Kalish and Lake have much smaller chances of being everyday players and to me profile best as 4/5th OF so I wouldn't mind having them settle into those roles.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I like your the lineup except ...we need a backup catcher.

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    In reply to Moonlight:

    I think he may have left it off because there's really no competition there. It's Kottaras unless he gets hurt.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:


  • In reply to mjvz:

    mjvz, lake is your CF this year (until he proves otherwise) thats where his value is. He will get some breaks against some righties. I would love to see Bonafacio start at second but it makes no sense at the start of the season (i think we will see him all over). If Barney starts off well, he would bring back some value in trade and by then Baez may be ready to come up.

    I have heard rumors of Shark and Schierholtz to ATL for Heyward.
    Based on contracts I think we would have to add a sweetener. But that would solve our left handed power outfielder situation.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    Lake will start in CF and get the majority of the ABs because that is what is best in the long term for both him and the club. My above scenario outlines what I would do if I was actually trying to put the best lineup out there every day to try to maximize wins.

    I don't have a problem with Barney on the team, he could easily replace Roberts in the above scenario and I wouldn't have much objection. I just think as a bench piece Roberts has more value, but I would only make that move assuming I could move Barney for a non roster prospect. I wouldn't just release him for the sake of Roberts.

    If the team thinks an extension with Shark is unlikely, I would make that deal if offered. But I don't think ATL makes that deal and I don't think the door is closed on an extension with Shark.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    sorry mjvz, i missed that point when I responded:

    my best lineup for the team for april 1st would be:

    2B Bonafacio
    SS Castro
    1B Rizzo
    3B Baez
    LF Schierholtz/Ruggioni
    C Castillo
    RF Sweeney/Ruggioni
    CF Lake

    I like Lake in the 8 spot, he is going to see a lot of strikes and he can utilize his speed in the second leadoff spot.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    But Baez wont be up april 1st, so I would bat Castillo 4th and have Olt bat 6th.

  • What is the scouting report on Tommy Hottovny? Does he have any chance of contributing to the mlb club from the bullpen? Especially if Russell is disabled.

  • In reply to Rosemary:

    Finesse type, sidearmer, throws strikes, more of a situational type.

  • John,
    It scares me to trade Shierholtz. That's 21 homers and 68 rbi's. I think we can get that again if we
    A--keep him all year
    b--platoon him against lefties.

    I know, I know, its NOT about this yeat, but toss in Veteran Leadership and HOPE, I juat am too dawn SELFISH..,m unless we get some team to Overpay.

    How many AB's did he get against lefties??? What did he hit against lefties??

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    I'm jonesing for Olt and others to make the big league club, but I think they have to go to iowa and have 100abs and prove they are ready. Olt and kalish would be nice around May and maybe vitters and BJackson after would icing.

    Opening day:
    Emilio - cf

    Trade Nate and Barney when others are ready.

    We really need to a middle of the order run producer.

    Goal is 30-30 after 60 games and hope for reinforcements...

  • My wife just had our first baby, and I met a guy in the waiting room who went to school with Josh Vitters, though he said he played more with Josh's brother.

    He mentioned the injuries, and I said it was more that the light hasn't completely turned on yet.

    Hopefully he's not injured and the light clicks on this season...

  • In reply to socalcub:

    Agreed -- and that light has to click soon.

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