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mike olt iowaChicago Cubs prospect Mike Olt came into Spring Training with a great deal to prove, most of it related to his 2013 season and eyesight issues. In 2012, he looked like a future big league third baseman, and maybe even a star-caliber one. We all know what happened in 2013, and, thus, at the outset of Spring Training, even with all the happy stories about his eyesight issues being resolved, I wouldn’t have pegged him at better than 20/80 to break camp with the big league team.

Where does that breakdown stand now? I think you’ve got to call it 50/50, right? At least?

Not only is Olt producing (.258/.294/.645 in 34 plate appearances (small sample size, 12 strikeouts)), but he’s also receiving praise from all the right sources (i.e., the manager and the front office). I still see some upside in letting Olt head to AAA Iowa for a month to confirm that the bat is where it needs to be and that the eyes are great and that the confidence is there. And, frankly, I really don’t hate the Luis Valbuena/Donnie Murphy platoon over there for a little while.

But if Olt, who’s been battling a sore shoulder, shows his defense is as good as advertised, maybe the Cubs pull the trigger on handing Olt the full-time job.

The plan is for that evaluation to begin today, with Olt starting at third base. I’d expect him to get plenty of looks there over the last 10 days of Spring Training.

In the interim, Olt will keep getting plenty of attention from the media (and around here). Here’s a piece, here’s a piece, here’s a piece, and here’s a piece.

While Spring Training is rife with faux storylines that emerge and get beaten to death because there’s only so much you can say about fake baseball, this Olt one is legit. Not only does Olt emerging as a success at third base bear interesting possibilities down the road, it’s something (1) that could really happen, and (2) with real upside. Right now, fans don’t have a whole lot of “the future” to look forward to, because the bulk of the Cubs’ incoming prospect wave is still a year or more away. Olt, however, really is right on the doorstep, really could win a job, and really could be a two or three-win player this year.

(Oh, and as an aside: given his age (25), the uncertainty of his future success, and his past service time, we’re not likely to see any service time games with Olt. It’s not really a consideration at this point.)

  • Darth Ivy

    Dang, Brett. Take a couple days off after that amazing article yesterday. We don’t want you burning out before opening day.

    But I guess, MIKE OLT!

  • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

    Only in the Cubs world could a player answer one giant health question mark to then have an injury that threatens the only thing about them that isn’t a question mark.

    • http://www.teamfums.org MichiganGoat

      I still don’t think the FO is worried about his ability to play third but you are right if the sholder is a true injury (vs being overly cautious OR wanting to solely focus on hitting) then we they need to see him play without discomfort. If he’s healthy then he can play 3B without worries then it comes down to a 25 man question. Does he stay at AAA so we can trade a player (cough cough Barney).

      • Cizzle

        If there was any concern whatsoever about structural damage with the shoulder, I doubt they’d let him even swing the bat.

  • Javier Bryant

    I don’t see the point in starting him in Iowa to begin the season if he’s healthy, which him finally playing 3B today is a good sign.

  • E

    If it were up to me, Olt is given the keys to 3rd base.

  • mbzsays

    Oh, the Steve Holt-ness of Mike Olt’s name will make his time with the Cubs very fun for me. Brilliant, Brett. Brilliant.

  • ssckelley

    If Olt turns into a 2/3 WIN player this season the Cubs will have officially robbed the Rangers in the Garza deal. It blows my mind that Olt could actually be fixed and could return to the form that made him one of the top prospects, and they got him merely as a throw in.

    • MattyNomad

      I would have been happy with the trade if all it produced was Edwards. The addition of Ramirez, Grimm, and a possible all-star starting 3B with Olt makes it an absolute smack in the face to the Rangers

      • Darth Ivy

        there must have been a bidding war. I can’t remember the trade rumors around Garza at the time, like if a bunch of teams were interested in him or what.

        • ssckelley

          Yes, they got more out of the Rangers after the A’s got involved.

    • CubChymyst

      If Olt turns out to a 2/3 WAR player and Baez is up at midseason. The 2nd half collapse of the past few seasons might be avoided (or at least not as drastic).

      • brickhouse

        The second half collapse depends on how many starting pitchers are traded- If Samardzija & Hammel get moved then it will be difficult to stay competitive.

        • CubChymyst

          Yeah the pitching could be worse the 2nd half. Hopefully a few of the AAA guys like Hendrix can fill in and not give to much of a drop off.

        • cub4life

          don’t forget Villenueva is in the last year of his contract.

  • Edwin

    Eh, why not. If he’s healthy, the sooner they find out what he can do at MLB the better. Probably doesn’t have much development left anyways, might as well give him a shot.

  • Mreverything

    Let’s hope that he really does play third base today unlike the other six times that we have heard that he’s ready to play there but hasn’t.

    • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

      Tomorrow, tomorrow, I’ll love ya, tomorrow, it’s only a day away!

  • Diggs

    Is the MIKE OLT! all-caps thing an allusion to Steve Holt from Arrested Development?

  • blublud

    Olt should will start in Iowa, unless the Cubs can move Barney. I agree hes ready, but the Cubs will want to be able to make a deal for Barney, and not be pressured into a deal for him. Olt going to AAA will help with that. A return for Barney will be minimal, but if they can take their time and get a Campana type return, I’ll be happy.

    Olt doesnt have the service time issues, but be’ll see Olt and Baez both around the end of April.

    • brickhouse

      Barney has nothing to do with Olt making the team. If Olt can cut down on his strikouts and prove he can play in the field he will start the season with the Cubs.

      I don’t think you will see Baez until later in the summer once the super 2 date is passed,

      • cub4life

        I see maybe a September call up

        • Isaac

          Bryant = September
          Baez = June

          • ssckelley

            I doubt we will see Bryant in September, but if we do it will be because he is making a mess of AA/AAA pitching. I do not think this FO is a big fan of bringing top prospects up for September call ups. It starts the service time clock on them, they have to make room on the 40 man, and then they have to leave them down longer the following season for control reasons. I think June of 2015 is the earliest we see Bryant.

            • Noah_I

              I agree, I don’t think we’ll see Bryant. First, no reason to eat up the MLB service time. Second, this is going to be by far the longest season of baseball he has ever played, his first full professional season. No need to push him with an extra few weeks of baseball in meaningless games.

              • blublud

                The Rays did it with Longview and that worked out fine.

                • blublud

                  Longoria

        • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

          If he’s not up until September it is because he is having some extreme struggles in AAA

          • cub4life

            As much as I would love to see him up sooner, if he is at SS the whole time why bring him up? Another position will take some time to get used to, especially if his main position is SS. But I do expect to see him and Bryant in Sept.

            • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

              He will get some time at 2B in AAA, but it’s not unheard of to bring a guy up and switch positions. Look at Manny Machado and Xander Bogaerts

              • cub4life

                Good point, and I agree that it isn’t unheard of, but 2 things 1 that is not this front office and both of those teams had a shot at the playoffs. Now if we are in the hunt June/July then yeah he will be up to help push us into the playoffs. But with the expectations I just don’t see any reason for it.

            • blublud

              Baez doesn’t make it to summer in Iowa unless he struggles. If he coming up this year, the sooner the better. The Cubs are actually losing service time if they wait til September, as they miss out on possibly a few months of “extra” ticket sales and gain nothing in service time or control to show for it. End of April for extra year of control, which is what I think, or early summer for Super Two is the latest they will wait to bring him up. Anything after that would be a waste if he comes up at any point this year. So if he misses that date, we won’t see him til next year.

              • cub4life

                if service time has nothing to do with it after July 5 (that is about the 86 day super 2 date) then maybe.

                • cub4life

                  (I only know that because i just learned it now, last day of the season is Sept 29 and according to the mlb page its 86+ days the year before for super 2) i didn’t know it til then.

                  • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

                    Even that is a rough estimate. Super-two status is determined as a percentage of players. Therefore, one year it may be 2.110 of service time gets you super two but the next year the same service time might not get you super two.

                • ssckelley

                  But service time plays a huge factor on when they call these prospects up. You want as much control during their prime years as possible.

                  But I hope the Super 2 does not keep Baez down any longer than he needs to be. It would look bad for the Cubs if Baez is knocking the cover off the ball in AAA for them to keep him there simply to avoid Super 2 status.

                  • cub4life

                    I do agree that service time is a big part of it (especially with this team) and knowing how this front office has been working super 2 will be a big factor. But I can see (now) maybe after the AS break or even the deadline, but not gonna hold my breath.

                    • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

                      With the way this FO has been working, Super-Two will be of no concern unless Baez is ready for MLB sometime in mid-June.

                      THEN, and only then, would they be concerned about Super-Two status.

          • ssckelley

            If Baez is not up before September, like well before the TDL, then we will not see Baez at all this season. Like I mentioned above with Bryant there is no reason to start the clocks on these top prospects in September because then it delays bringing them up the following season. If you think this FO is not paying attention to service time clocks then you are badly mistaken.

            Plus it will mean that Baez is struggling AAA and he is not ready for MLB pitching. That would really suck!

      • http://bleachernation.com woody

        I tend to agree that Baez won’t be up as quickly as many anticipate. I also agree that Barney in no way hinders Olt’s chances to win the third base job. Third base is an open position being filled by a platoon of two career utility players. The player most affected by Olt is Murphy who becomes expendible with the platoon no longer being needed. I would hate to see Murphy take up a roster spot at the expense of a guy like Kalish if Olt were to start the season in Wrigley. My thinking is that they give Olt a month or so at Iowa to make sure that giving him the third base job is the right move.

    • ssckelley

      I think whether or not they can move Barney determines if Bonaficio makes the team.

      • blublud

        Bonafacio makes the team either way. He’s a lock. Even though he signed a minor league deal, he basicly signed a major league deal, but helped the Cubs prolong a roster decision. There is ZERO chance Bonafacio doesn’t break with the big club.

        • ssckelley

          I believe you, which is another reason why Barney is so expendable. If you do not move Barney then (I am guessing) our beloved Babe Watkins is probably gone.

          • blublud

            Watkins is gone either way. If Barney stays and Olt makes team, Bonafacio and Valbuena makes it. If Not Olt Add Murphy. If no Barney or Olt, Bonafacio starts, Murphy/Valbuena at third, Watkins makes it. If Olt, but no Barney, Olt at third, Murphy/Valbuena at 2nd with Bonafacio on the bench. There is only one Way Watkins makes this team. If Olt not ready and Barney traded.

            • ssckelley

              See I think if Olt makes the team out of ST then Murphy gets cut. I see a little more value in a fingy prospect that is 24 years old compared to a veteran journeyman.

  • mosconml

    I love the slugging, but I don’t love the OBP. Put that 50 points higher and it’d make for a pretty tough argument to send him back down.

    • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

      Eh, it’s Spring and Olt can finally see properly. Taking walks have never been an issue with him.

      The thing that concerns me the most is the lack of doubles. Is he taking it easy on the basepaths but still hitting the ball well enough to get doubles, or has he gotten lucky 4 times this Spring and has a bunch of BABIP-goddess-love singles?

    • blublud

      Olt only needs to hit .220 to OBP .300. If he hits .250-.260, he OBP at least .330.

      • http://www.survivingthalia.com Mike Taylor

        Think about Olt as replacing Soriano’s bat in the lineup, all he has to do is put up .254/.287/.467 in 93 games, but we know he’ll walk more, k about the same, and provide better defense at his position (historically, because last year’s Soriano in LF was a great surprise).

        Watching Bill James on MLB network talk about the 3 possibilities of a PA: BB,K,HR in an episode of CC, he makes a great argument for guys like Adam Dunn, etc… if they’re getting on base a lot, driving in runs with men on base, and not putting the ball in play creating extra outs, there’s a lot of value there (strictly from an offensive standpoint).

        With the advertised excellent defense Olt brings as well, I’m happy to give him the keys to 3B. Since there’s interest in Samardzija, Barney, Schierholtz, and Russell with injuries popping up all over the place, this creates the perfect time to shed payroll while giving the kids some opportunity.

        • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

          Olt will put up a far better OPS than Soriano by virtue of his far superior OBP.

          • Kyle

            We’ll see. If the strikeouts continue at this pace, both the power and OBP will suffer. There’s still some real downside there, even though I’m buying hte upside a bit more.

            • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

              Ya, there is real downside there. Same with Baez and Jackson, will he make enough contact to have value.

  • MattyNomad

    I’m giving serious consideration to making “OLT!” shirts….already a hit in my mind. Quite possibly the only thing we Cubs fans have to look forward to this year would be September call ups and Kalish showing some worth as another piece of the puzzle.

  • mjhurdle

    Brett’s financial article getting praise on ESPN 1000 Carmen and Jurko.

    Again, well done Brett

    • mjhurdle

      of course, that was preceded by 5 minutes of bashing the Cubs front office because Baez won’t be on the opening day roster.
      they called him “the best player in Spring Training. Not just for the Cubs, but from any team.”

      • willis

        Wow, that’s a little much.

        I love Baez but I’m not blinded by bizarre fandom to not realize he needs a little more development before it’s time.

        • Darth Ivy

          you’re NOT blinded by bizzarre fandom?

          Get out.

    • Darth Ivy
    • Jason P

      ESPN talk radio is just awful for baseball analysis. It’s good for football and basketball, but nobody seems to follow baseball closely at all.

      There’s nothing worse than listening to 2 people who don’t know what they’re talking about complain about something they don’t understand.

      • CubFanBob

        “There’s nothing worse than listening to 2 people who don’t know what they’re talking about complain about something they don’t understand.”

        Sums up 95% of the baseball talk across all the Chicago sports radio.

        Stick Olt at third on opening day. The dude is showing he is back and has always been able to pick it at third. He only needs a week or so at 3b to be ready.

        • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

          “Sums up 95% of the sports talk across all the sports radio, ever.”

          FTFY

      • JCubs79

        ESPN Radio is just awful for sports analysis in general. Half the time I tune in to it they’re not even talking about sports, they’re talking about Waddle’s dentist appointment or Jurko’s new pair of slacks that really show off his glutes.

  • nate1m

    Man, it sucks to be Christian Villanueva

    • blublud

      Things always work themselves out. You never know, he may be the one who pans out and sticks.

    • CubChymyst

      Not really, if he can play in the big leagues he’ll get traded to another team if the Cubs have no spot for him

    • ssckelley

      Not really, he was ticketed for AAA well before this season started anyway.

      • Smitty

        It is actually better for him since he will not have to share 3rd down in Iowa with Olt. He gets all his at-bats to show what he can do. If Olt actually plays well enough our “glut” of 3rd base prospects will start to bring in the pitching we need. Olt playing 3rd base with a decent OPS and above average defense makes him a valuable asset. Thus we can flip him when CV is ready, or when Alcantara is ready and move Baez to 3rd. Lots of options.

  • terencemann

    On a slightly unrelated note, Iglesias is out for the season. So long, Darwin Barney.

    • brickhouse

      Iglesias may not be out for the whole season. Detroit has many options better than Barney.

      • another JP

        OK, name them.

    • Javier Bryant

      Barney to the Tigers, Mets, or even the Blue jays makes sense. I would not be against trading Barney and Schierholtz to Detroit

      • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

        Barney, Schierholtz, Samardzija to the Tigers for Smyly, Porcello and a couple of their top pitching prospects.

        There, I’ve made my one insane trade scenario for the year.

  • another JP

    Another HR threat in the line-up with plate discipline and plus defense? Hell, yeah! If Olt makes the team out of ST and performs as we hope he will the Garza trade is officially highway robbery.

    • The Real Wrigley

      Plate discipline? Olt ( or, “Olt!”, as some call him), most likely, is a strikeout per game guy. Don’t get me wrong, I like the guy. But, Olt, and “disciplined hitter” shouldn’t be used side by side.
      I’ve read that an optimistic batting average for him sits around .250-.260. Combine that with the fact that the guy isn’t going to walk very often, and you’re not left with much “discipline”.

      • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

        “Combine that with the fact that the guy isn’t going to walk very often”

        Last year at AAA, Olt walked 13% of the time. He has plate discipline/awareness/whatever other old school terminology you want to use. He hits for power so he is going to naturally have a higher than average K rate.

        Olt’s K rate indicates a lack of contact ability which is what would push his BA to .250-.260. If he gets a hit that often, then his minor league stats indicate he should have an OBP of .350 and slug somewhere around .450. An .800 OPS 3B is top shelf.

        What is concerning about him is if the K-rate indicates that he just isn’t going to be good enough at making contact to sustain the power at the big league level. Even then, the only time he has had a truly concerning K rate was last year with the Round Rock. Even then, his K rate is buoyed by his good BB rates.

        • The Real Wrigley

          How many Ks this spring? Walks?

          • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

            So you are allowing an incredibly small sample size of 40-ish PA to override 1600 minor league PA? Or even the 400 PA he has in AAA?

            Walk and K abilities don’t vanish overnight.

            • The Real Wrigley

              I merely asked a question. I understand you like to debate. Could you just answer the question, instead of assuming that I’m looking past his overall minor league career?

              • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

                Ok, I’ll play the game, he has a 30%+ K rate and a 2.5% BB rate.

                • C. Steadman

                  Olt has a 5.9% BB rate(2BB/34PA) this spring hans! Don’t sell our argument short!

                • The Real Wrigley

                  Thank you for answering my question.

                  • C. Steadman

                    Plate Discipline is more about walks than it is striking out…

                    • DocPeterWimsey

                      Really, it’s more about not swinging at pitches you cannot drive. Walking/not walking and not K’ing/K’ing are symptoms of that.

                      However, hangman’s point does stand: given that month-to-month K and BB numbers oscillate a lot due to quality of opposition AND just pure chance, just two weeks of ST numbers tell us nothing. Even an entire season must be taken in context. In 2008, ARam provided us with an entire year of walks that you’d expect him to provide once every century or so: and then he reverted to normal in 2009. (As there are over 200 big-league regulars, you expect two once-in-a-century performances per year, and we got lucky to get one in 2008!)

                  • ssckelley

                    So what was the point in your question? Honestly I thought you were going down the path that Hans responded to.

          • C. Steadman

            Olt has always had good BB rates in the minors. BB rates don’t decrease substantially to the MLB either, Olt will have around a 10-12% BB rate over a MLB season which is above average to great.

  • ssckelley

    The 40 man roster could be in play here if Olt makes the team out of ST or not. If Olt makes the team out of ST then I would have to believe Murphy becomes expendable. IMO I think the FO’s first instinct is to let Olt go to AAA and have Murphy/Valbuena combo platoon at third hoping to have another TDL chip, keep in mind this is a FO that turned a 5th infielder into an interesting pitching prospect (Hairston for Pineyro). But the more I see of this Kalish guy the more I like him, I think it is possible that Kalish makes the team over Lake and all the other dumpster dives they brought in. Your not DFA’ing Lake and I don’t think you value Murphy over Vitters, Watkins, and Brett Jackson (it might be close). Plus you have this Bonaficio that they might want to keep.

    So is it possible the Cubs could go ahead and give Olt a shot at third to free up a spot on the 40 man roster? I would not think it would be the main reason, but an interesting extra reason to give Olt the job. Murphy is not in the long term plans and I don’t think he would have a hard time finding another job, plus it is possible he might accept a demotion to Iowa to keep collecting the $825K that he signed for knowing if Olt falters he is back in the bigs.

    • ssckelley

      5th outfielder….not infielder….jeez!

  • http://BN Sacko

    He sure as crap will start at AAA not only to make sure he is ready but to decide what to do with the people he will replace. Rummage Sale!

  • Webb

    What happens to Olt if every prospect comes up roses? Does he stay at 3rd, Baez come in to play 2nd in August/September, and Alcantara move to center in 2015? Then what happens to Alcantara in 2016 (or mid-late 2015), when Almora is MLB ready?

    Since each of Almora, Soler, Bryant, Olt, Baez, and Alcantara has about a .5 probability of MLB success at best (give or take for each), we are talking about creating a contingency plan for something that has about a 1.5% chance of happening. But hey, the Bulls got Derek Rose (1.7%).

    It will be interesting to see what happens to these players as they climb the prospect ladder and either rise or fall to the occasion, and what the team does with them once their respective plateaus are reached.

    • ssckelley

      Unlikely this happens but if another 3rd base option comes along Olt can play right field. But since Olt has a pretty good glove at 3rd it might force the other to the outfield, like Bryant. Chrisitian Villanueva might be the one guy who could force Olt to the outfield.

      • willis

        You beat me by a minute.

        • ssckelley

          Well you brought up the potential “dangle” thing. :D

    • willis

      If Olt comes up and plays well, I think the only prospect that can push him off of 3B would be Villanueva. A bunch to be determined there, but in Villanueva would have to be performing well at the plate with Olt strugging for this to happen IMO.

      In a perfect world, with a healthy, solid Olt and Kris Bryant playing to his ceiling, I think you put Bryant at a corner OF spot, and you dangle Villanueva out there in an attempt to get some pitching.

    • Noah_I

      The Cubs are going to have to acquire their top level pitching either via trade or via free agency. To the extent any logjam is created, they’ll trade the players that they don’t have homes for.

      For example, let’s say Olt comes up and succeeds at 3B, Baez comes up midseason and succeeds at 2B, and then they shift Alcantara to CF and he succeeds there. As you noted, the odds of all three of these happening is slim. The Cubs then have a host of trade options, including attempting to trade Castro and moving Baez to shortstop, using Almora as the top chip in a trade for an ace, trading some of their depth at 3B prospects (Villanueva, Candelario), trading Olt when Bryant is ready, trading Alcantara when Almora is ready, etc.

      Having too many good players is never a problem, it just provides more options.

      • Webb

        Agreed. The issue I see arising is that so many prospects are so close to the same level that it will be difficult to maximize their value by showcasing sustained MLB success. Will teams jump back on the Olt bandwagon and trade for him after just 600 plate appearances? Same for Alcantara or Villanueva – what will teams give up for a talented rookie? Probably not an ace methinks.

  • http://BN Sacko

    One thing at a time dude, nobody is anywhere yet.

  • jonred

    Would really like to see Olt either break with camp or arrive at Wrigley by May. We need to see whether he could be the everyday option at 3B now with Baez and Bryant coming up likely later this year. If Olt can hit 20-25 HR and drive in 80+, then we shift Bryant to LF and Baez to 2B.

  • Crockett

    I’m back! I can’t get my stupid avatar to load properly though. Dumb wordpress.

    I am very excited about Olt. If he proves to be back to 2012-level and puts up good numbers, the logjam just becomes enormous.

    Do we even keep Starlin at that point? I’m serious. At what point does he move to LF?

    Rizzo 1B
    Alcantara 2B
    Baez SS
    Olt 3B
    Bryant RF
    Castro LF

    I wish Castro was athletic enough to play CF, but I just don’t see it.

    • Cizzle

      I see your stupid avatar, I think it loaded ok. :)

    • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

      “I wish Castro was athletic enough to play CF, but I just don’t see it.”

      I see that you have Mike Olt Syndrome then.

      So one of the best range guys at SS isn’t athletic enough to play CF?

    • ssckelley

      I think Castro would make one heck of a center fielder, athleticism is not in question at all. But I think Castro would be traded for pitching before ever being moved to center field. Besides unless the FO gets overwhelmed with an offer I think Castro is part of the long term plans at shortstop.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        The issue for Castro would be, how well does he read the ball off of the bat? CF can get really tough because liners hit right at you look the same if they are landing 50′ in front of you or 50′ in back of you: or at least they do for a split second longer than do other balls. LF and RF can be easier because there is a slight hook on pulled/pushed balls that gives you a much better instant reading on their depth.

        The one reason that I worry Castro might not do this well is that he does not recognize pitches well: and, fundamentally, this involves the same tool.

        • ssckelley

          True, all I have seen is how well he tracks down the fly balls from shortstop. Either way I do not see him being moved to center field any time soon. Castro is a pretty good shortstop.

  • http://BN Sacko

    Castro stays at Short this year.

  • MichaelD

    If Castro’s injuries linger into the start of the season could that influence the Olt decision? I.e. Barney shifts to SS and Valbuena to 2b.

    • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

      None. If the FO thinks Olt is ready, they will put him at 3rd. If not, they will put him at Iowa.

  • dAn

    Speaking of *actual* ST stories, do you think this is a legit possibility, Brett?: Cubs option Lake to Iowa to let him get on track, and give his spot in the Cub OF to Kalish, who joins Castro at the top of the lineup.

    It would seem that Kalish has a lot of things the org values: OBP/speed/reasonable pop/OF range. He’s also LH and they need to find another LH keeper or two for the core, right? Seems to me that Kalish has played his way into the picture this spring.

  • Kyle

    Olt’s got the job barring injury or just complete K-fueled collapse in the next two weeks. I’m still deeply concerned about the swing-and-miss in his game, but he’s shown enough, the scouting reports are good, and they’ve shown enough faith in him for me to want to see him get a shot.

    I’d like to see us send down Lake and carry Bonifacio as both 7th infielder and 5th outfielder. Both Murphy and Valbuena could also handle the corner outfield in a pinch with their athleticism (both have at least a brief appearance there in their MLB careers).

    So if I were building a 25-man roster for Opening Day, assuming Arrieta is on the DL for at least a little bit, I’d go:

    Ruggiano/Sweeney/Schierholtz (Kalish)
    Olt/Castro/Barney/Rizzo (Valbuena, Murphy, Bonifacio)
    Castillo (Kottaras)

    Samardzija/Wood/Jackson/Hammel/Villanueva
    Veras/Wright/Russell/Strop/Parker/Cabrera/Ramirez (a lot of different ways you can build the bullpen).

    That’s 10-15 net runs better than I thought we’d be when ST started, thanks to Olt’s possible emergence, the addition of Bonifacio, and the relative health of the team.

    If just once for the love of God we could get some positive variance to start the season, and stay unusually healthy, we could float near .500, then the mid-season additions of Baez and Vizcaino could be pretty darn useful and we might actually be talking reasonably about how many games out of the Wild Card we are in August and September.

    It’s a long shot to a not-that-great dream, but it’s something.

    • C. Steadman

      I like the optimistic version of Kyle.

      • BT

        Put another way, a 2/15 guy might get us closer to respectability, but respectability is pointless. Unless they get us to competitiveness, there is no reason to waste the roster spot that could be spent on a flippable asset or a developing prospect (I don’t care about the money).

    • BT

      When you see it written out, that’s a pretty ugly outfield. I suppose if you plug Baez in at 2b, the infield might be able to carry the offense, but man, no one is going to be afraid of that triumvirate.

      • Kyle

        It’s going to easily challenge for the worst outfield in baseball.

        Which makes me so freakin’ mad about this offseason. It would have been *so* easy to drop one or two $2/15m contracts on outfielders who would have been easy upgrades and pushed this team closer to respectability.

        • ssckelley

          I agree, we needed an outfield slugger and they got us Ruggiano. I would have liked this outfield a lot more with a guy like Granderson.

        • Noah_I

          I don’t know, do the likes of David Murphy, Marlon Byrd, Nate McLouth or Chris Young really improve this team? They potentially could, sure. But a lot has to go right for most of these guys to be anything more than 1 WAR players.

          • aaronb

            Nelson Cruz would have improved the team.

            • C. Steadman

              Nelson Cruz would’ve been nice, only if we added another SP or two(not named Hammell)…him alone wouldn’t have been worth it.

              • aaronb

                Agreed, I thought Cruz and Jimenez were both bargains.

              • Edwin

                I’m just not that big of a Cruz fan. Other than his power, he doesn’t offer too much. Terrible defense, bad baserunning, poor OBP skills, and he’s coming off a PED suspension. He’s been worth 1.5 WAR or less the past 3 seasons. I’d take a flyer on Chris Young well before I’d take a flyer on Nelson Cruz.

                • C. Steadman

                  I’m fine without Cruz and having our 2nd Round pick, I would’ve liked Chris Young, but Kalish is proving to be a nice pickup.

                  • DocPeterWimsey

                    I’m pretty squeamish about Young at this point. Cruz might have added some value, but his fielding has gotten to be pretty awful: it’s been 3 straight years of very subpar range statistics from him.

        • BT

          As Noah said, it was easy to improve, but not that easy to meaningfully improve.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          At the risk of adding optimism to optimism and getting some sort of cosmic breakdown, I would suggest that we keep an eye on Ruggiano. He had BABiP luck from hell last year, and his ZIPs projections actually are better than any of the low-level FA OFer’s that were available last winter.

    • Isaac

      I don’t know what to say…perhaps my laughter at the suggestion of Kyle being pragmatic actually prompted legitimate pragmatism from him.

      Well done, Kyle. Good thoughts all of the way around.

      • Kyle

        We do this every year.

        In October: “Guys, baseball teams are rarely *that* bad, we have a shot, we shouldn’t be wasting it by refusing to commit resources.”

        “Kyle, why are you being such a pessimist all the time?

        In February, “Guys, baseball teams are rarely *that* bad, we have a shot.”

        “Man, even Kyle’s being optimistic!”

        • MightyBear

          The problem is there isn’t one guy (with the exception of Scott Baker or the Cubs getting Doug Fister (even though we don’t know what Baker wanted and we don’t know if the Cubs could’ve gotten Fister)) that I thought the Cubs should have bid more and got him. Ellsbury was one of the few players I thought was a good fit and the Yankees paid a ridiculous amount for him. Same with Tanaka. Free agency is becoming slimmer and slimmer pickings and certainly a lot more expensive.

          • DocPeterWimsey

            The Tigers wanted specific relievers that the Nats had. The Cubs bullpen wasn’t exactly a strength last year (just in case you hadn’t heard!), so they were not a potential match.

            Anthopolous of the Jays commented that he hated these sorts of trades because he (and 27 other GMs) then had to defend to their fans why they were not getting Fister instead when he probably could have offered more in actual baseball value for Fister; however, he couldn’t offer more of what the Tigers valued as he didn’t have those particular players.

    • MightyBear

      Holy Cow. My head is spinning. Kyle is starting to think like me. Don’t be surprised if Alcantara, Hendricks and Neil Ramirez don’t come up and help this team as well. This isn’t going to be a throw away season.

      • Kyle

        It wouldn’t surprise me, but I’m not really tingling over any of them.

        Alcantara could probably use a full year at Iowa. Hendricks is probably just a cheap version of Villanueva (which will be nice to have in coming years, saves you a few million to be put to use elsewhere, but doesn’t add anything to our current team) and Ramirez will be a nice middle reliever but probably not an impact player.

        • MightyBear

          Alcantara will have to light it up in Iowa to get the call but he can. He did last year. Guys like Ramirez are what every team needs because relievers are going to go down or be ineffective. You already know that I feel Hendricks is going to be better than what you’ve outlined so I won’t repeat.

          • Kyle

            At least now we’re back on the comfortably familiar ground of disagreement.

          • ssckelley

            Even if he duplicates what he did in AA at Iowa we will not see Alcantara this season. Again this FO does not strike me to be the type to give September call ups to the top prospects. The only way I see this happening for Alcantara is if they are trying to establish him as a MLB ready player in order to trade him. Otherwise the earliest we will see him is June of 2015 along with Bryant.

    • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

      “If just once for the love of God we could get some positive variance to start the season”

      HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHA

  • candyland07

    Olt- start him . demote him ,trade him. The Cubs wont know what they have until he gets at least 100 to 150 AB /PA . If he is healthy – start him . I doubt the Cubs will lose leverage or confidence in the young man. He seems to have a good baseball work ethic about him,if he travels North to Join the Cubs, its win/ win situation. he will either stick and give the Cubs an everyday third baseman or the Cubs will go back to the platoon.

    This is a season that the Cubs can afford to let younger players occupy the 25 man roster. If the Cubs are gonna be bad let it be with a young team that may play years together. IF Olt is healthy enough give him third base and let him be the person to lose the job.

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