No matter how you slice it, the Cubs did well in the Matt Garza trade. C.J. Edwards, Justin Grimm, and the P(s)TBNL alone would have been a quality return for Garza. But the Cubs also landed Mike Olt.
If you buy into the hype, such as that from Jonathan Mayo on cubs.com, Olt is one of the absolute best prospects in baseball and is all but certain to not only play excellent defense, but to hit for a decent average with very high OBP and slugging rates. The hype loves Olt.
History hates him. History tells us that players who strike out 30% of the time or more in Triple A have a very difficult time in the majors; Olt fits that description. Pull up FanGraphs and look up the players who have accomplished that ignoble feat over the past few seasons. I suspect you won’t recognize many names. Very few of the players who hit that milestone are in the majors. To get you started, this link should take you to the page for 2008 (min 250 PA).
So who do you believe? The hype says the Cubs got a potential star, and the history says Olt is destined to go nowhere fast. Fans of hype can point out that no prospect on that list was as well regarded as Olt is now, and fans of history can point out that the list of Triple A 30% K-rate seasons is really depressing reading.
The largely unanswered question here is – why were the Cubs pursuing Olt for two seasons? The Cubs front office know their stats and they know their history. They picked up Olt with the full knowledge that his inability to make consistent contact points more to a career in Japan than a career in the majors. Why did they do it? Did they believe that the vision issues were the primary cause (doubtful, since they sought after Olt last year)? Do they see something in his swing or approach that they believe can be fixed? Or maybe they just see this as a chance to take a flier on a lottery ticket type regardless of the mountain of odds stacked against him? Hard to say. I’ll be watching the interviews given by the front office closely in the coming days to see what their reasoning was.
So where do these players rank in the Bleacher Nation Top 40? Edwards comes in the highest at No. 14, and I’ll admit that feels a little on the low side. He has posted some extremely impressive numbers in the South Atlantic League, but I can’t bring myself to slot him over Hendricks in Double A. At 14, Edwards checks in right behind the Smokies’ ace.
Olt could go as high as No. 5, if you buy into the hype; history says to leave him off altogether. I think there is enough value in the glove alone to put him on the list. Right now he would probably do alright as a defensive replacement and right handed power bat off the bench and in platoon situations in Chicago. That’s not a bad floor, and of course his ceiling is far higher. For now, until he proves he can hit Triple A pitching over a sustained period of time, I’ll slot him in at No. 16, in the same vicinity as other good-glove types with significant offensive questions. If he bounces back in the second half of the season to finish with numbers that are not down right terrifying, then he’ll likely climb back up somewhere in the Top 10. If he keeps up a K% that would make Stephen King hide under the bed, though, then he’ll probably drift down this list some more (but not off it altogether, I think, thanks to his glove).
Justin Grimm is a nice pitcher to have in the system, but he has too many major league innings for me to rank him as a prospect. I’ll deal with the P(s)TBNL later on, when they are officially named.
Scores From Yesterday
Iowa - Rain ended this game early, and the Cubs lost 9-2.
Tennessee - The Smokies committed three errors on their way to a 5-4 loss.
Daytona - The Cubs were rained out.
Kane County - The Cougar’s win streak died at two as they lost 5-2.
Boise - The Hawks beat up on one of the best teams in the league. The final over Everett was a stunning 10-0.
Arizona - It was a low scoring affair in the desert as the Cubs won 2-1.
Performances of Note
- [Iowa] Three days after coming in as a reliever, Nick Struck took the mound as the starting pitcher for Iowa. It did not go well at all, but at least we know he isn’t being moved to the bullpen.
- [Iowa] In what may be his final game as Iowa’s third baseman, Josh Vitters went 0 for 2 with a walk. He will now likely become the left fielder. If his bat continues to produce this year the way it did last year, he has a shot to take over for Soriano in left should the Cubs make another trade later this season.
- [Tennessee] Justin Bour hit his 10th home run in this 2 for 4 game.
- [Tennessee] Kyle Hendricks has another quality game. This time he went 7 innings and allowed 2 runs on 4 hits while striking out 6.
- [Kane County] Gioskar Amaya walked twice as the Cougars’ lead off hitter. Dan Vogelbach also drew two free passes.
- [Kane County] Juan Paniagua struck out 4 over 3.1 innings in the start. He also allowed 5 hits, 3 runs, and walked 3.
- [Boise] Five pitchers combined to toss the three hit shutout for the Hawks. In order of appearance: Rob Zastryzny (2 IP, 1 K), Sam Wilson (2 IP, 4 K), Zack Godley (2 IP, 2 K), Scott Frazier (2 IP, 2 K), and Tyler Bremer (1 IP).
- [Boise] The bats were just as prolific as the pitching was excellent. Every man in the lineup had a hit, six of them had two hits, and five of them had extra base hits. It doesn’t get much better than that.
- [Arizona] Kris Bryant doubled and drove in two for the Cubs. David DeJesus, on a rehab assignment, also doubled as part of his two hit game.
- [Arizona] Erick Leal pitched well in his 3.1 inning start (4H, 1R, 2K). When he left, Josh Davis, Tyler Ihrig, and Trevor Graham finished things off without allowing another run.
- Looking for a new background for your desktop? The Tennessee Smokies have you covered. You can take your pick of Bour, Baez, Alcantara, or Hendricks, not to mention some pretty nifty non-player wallpapers.
- On the day after Braun admitted to cheating, lying, and worst of all (for him anyway), getting caught, there is one mascot from the Mascot Mania contest that is just begging for a mention. Pull up the Southern League and look in the bottom left. NW Arkansas goes by the name of Naturals. And their mascot is Sinker the Lake Creature. Yep, that’s fitting for a day on which the reputation of a not-natural slugger who plays for a city on a lake is sinking. It’d be too perfect if that team were an affiliate of the Brewers, but alas they are part of the Royals farm system.