Allow yourself a moment of excitement. You’re probably going to have to savor them when you get them this year.
Chicago Cubs GM Jed Hoyer today told the media that the final two roster spots will be going to perhaps the two biggest stories in camp (at least among the guys who had a shot to make the team): Mike Olt and Ryan Kalish.
Both guys are coming back from down 2013 seasons (and more for Kalish), so this is a swell story in that regard, alone. But both are also young players with decent upside who could inject a little bit of hope into the equation early on this year for the Cubs. I make the “cookies” joke in the headline, but, in all seriousness, this is not just about appeasing the fans with a little something. These are two players who could make an actual difference for the team in the near and short-term.
Olt, 25, battled now well-known eye issues all last season, and was an enormous wild card entering Spring Training. If anyone told you they thought he had even a 50/50 shot of making the team back in February, that person should buy some lottery tickets. As it is, Olt is something of a lottery ticket himself, and the Cubs now get to see how things play out for him over the first few months. If he keeps performing as he has in Spring Training, the trickle-down effect could be incredible. A productive, cost-controlled, glove/bat combo at third base? With Kris Bryant and Javier Baez knocking on the door? With Starlin Castro already at short and Anthony Rizzo already at first? Stay calm, Brett. Remind yourself that Olt is, right now, still just a very nice prospect. It’s up to him now to put it all together.
Olt may sit against some tough righties (giving Luis Valbuena some starts), but I’m going to assume he’ll be pretty regular over there at third. I doubt the Cubs would carry Olt just to sit him or use him as the weak half of a platoon.
Kalish, also 25 (until tomorrow, when he turns 26 – happy freaking birthday, eh?), is coming back from a myriad of neck and shoulder injuries that have cost him the better part of the last three seasons. He was on our radar as a legit possibility for the team all the way back in early February. And he was getting love from Theo Epstein as recently as yesterday. That he made the team is not a huge surprise. How he’ll be used will certainly be interesting. The Cubs have five outfielders on the roster – Nate Schierholtz, Junior Lake, Justin Ruggiano, Ryan Sweeney and Kalish – and they’ve also got a utility guy (Emilio Bonifacio) who will have to occasionally rotate through the outfield if his bat is going to stay in the lineup regularly. Schierholtz is a lock to start against all righties, and Junior Lake will probably start most days, too. Otherwise, there’s a fairly wide opening for Kalish, a lefty, to grab some starts. Hell, the Cubs could now go all lefty in the outfield against a righty starter if they wanted.
Adding Olt and Kalish to the roster doesn’t make this team a competitive one, and both players may struggle this year. But, for today, it’s fun to see them make the team.