Arismendy Alcantara’s performance kept making it harder and harder to send him down, and Mike Olt’s performance kept making it harder and harder to keep him up.
So, here we are: with the Chicago Cubs needing a roster spot today for Tsuyoshi Wada, and with a position player due to be moved out, it’s Olt who gets sent to AAA Iowa.
Although he’s got some nice counting stats, Olt’s overall numbers underscore his struggles this year: .139/.222/.353 with a .255 wOBA and 55 wRC+. The real kick in the gut is the 39.6% K rate. That, alone, is high enough to sink you. And when the balls you do put in play aren’t falling (.147 BABIP, partly due to weak contact (11.2% line drive rate, 12.7% infield fly ball rate), there simply won’t be offensive success.
Where things go for Olt from here is just about anybody’s guess. His was a great story coming into the season, having overcome eye issues last year and winning a spot on the roster out of Spring Training. The Cubs gave him a fairly extensive shot to hold into a big league spot, but the contact issues – and also frequently not pulling the trigger on hittable pitches in the zone – put him in pitchers’ counts at every turn. You just can’t get it done like that, and maybe he can improve with some time at AAA. Although he turns 26 next month, it’s still possible that Olt could carve out a future big league role, perhaps on the bench. He can play excellent defense at third (and has the ability to play first base or a corner outfield spot), and does have that huge raw power.
Together with the promotion of Jorge Soler to AAA, the Cubs will have to sort out the Iowa roster (technically, they’d need only one spot), as well as playing time. If there’s any hope at all left for Olt, the Cubs will want him getting regular at bats. At the same time, I suspect they want Kris Bryant getting regular starts at third base still. So Olt’s going to have to pick up his at bats elsewhere. If they come at first base and in a corner outfield spot, they could come primarily at the expense of Josh Vitters, who has been struggling mightily this year.