Early in the year, the Chicago Cubs managed Mike Olt’s appearances both to protect his shoulder and to put him in some advantageous matchups while he adjusted to the big leagues, coming off a season derailed, in large part, by now-resolved eye and allergy issues. Although it wasn’t popular with cookie-loving Cubs fans, it seemed to work, and Olt eventually played himself into a more regular role.
Unfortunately, since May 15, Olt is hitting just .087/.185/.196 with a 42.6% K rate. And it’s that last part that really stings. But for it, one could point to Olt’s 11.1% BB rate and a .125 BABIP during that stretch, and suggest it’s just a blip. Olt hasn’t notched a hit in his last 16 at-bats, and, considering his elevated K rate, I just don’t think we can say it’s solely been bad luck.
Overall, Olt is hitting .153/.237/.372 with a .269 wOBA, a 63 wRC+, and a 35.3% K rate.
In part because of the slump, and in part because of the ongoing development process, it sounds like the Cubs will be going back to the way things were when the season started.
“We’re going to pick the matchups that put him in a position to have success,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria told the media, including ESPN. “We want him to know he shouldn’t be too concerned about anything. Things happen. You have hiccups. I know there was a time when he was doing very, very well and everybody wanted him in there every single day so we started putting him in there. You give him rope and allow them to go out there and perform and feel the landscape. Now we’re going to pull back a little bit …. It doesn’t mean he’s not going to get back to that opportunity. It’s going to be the same way [as before]. We’re going to try and find spots.”
In other words, Olt is now more of a bench piece than a regular starter, and may not even be a clear part of a platoon right now. I’d imagine he’ll still be getting plenty of starts against lefties, though.
To his credit, Olt is taking everything in stride, saying all of the right things, and continuing to work (Cubs.com). There’s value in being in the big leagues, even on the bench, because of what you can learn from the coaching staff and teammates.
Although Olt turns 26 in August, he was a college player who is still only in his fourth full professional season. You certainly don’t just give up on a guy like that, especially when he plays quality defense and has tremendous natural power. But, because of the coming wave of positional talent, the clock is ticking a little bit if Olt is going to establish himself as a core piece going forward, even if in a complementary role. A guy who can play great defense at third (and presumably first), who can play the corner outfield spots when needed, who can take a walk, and who has huge power? That can be a valuable guy for several years, even if he’s not an everyday starter.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not throwing in the towel on Olt as a possible starter down the road. I’m just saying that, however this plays out, there can be value even if he’s not starting.