Chicago 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.
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.)