While you’re chilling at the office this afternoon, waiting for the NCAA Tournament games to start again, why not sign up for the Opening Day fantasy contest and tinker with your team? The full contest details are here, but the short version is that you can win a share of $100,000, a BN shirt, and a signed Anthony Rizzo bat (you’re entered to win that last one just for signing up!).
- Keith Law’s latest chat has a bunch of interesting Cubs-related bits, but I wanted to highlight this response when he was asked about Mike Olt’s defense at third base: “If Mike Olt got an extended chance with a team that has a need at 3B, do you think he could become an average ML starter? Klaw: Maybe. 70 or 80 defender there. Doesn’t have to hit a whole lot to be a viable regular.” Maybe I’ve missed it, but I wasn’t aware Law – or anyone else, for that matter – had dropped a 70 or 80(!) grade on Olt at third base. That’s perennial Gold Glove level. That’s the kind of level that, even at third base, you’d take a below-average hitter to get. Maybe Law’s praise goes a little too far on the defensive side, but Olt sure has looked especially good over there this Spring, and he came into the Cubs’ system with plenty of love for his defense. Last year, I didn’t see an elite guy at third base (maybe my perspective was skewed because Luis Valbuena was great over there), but he did look pretty good. (The defensive metrics say he was below average in 2014, but super small sample.)
- All of that is to say … I don’t know. Maybe there’s a better chance than we think of Olt holding onto the starting job at third base once Kris Bryant is ready to come up, and maybe Bryant really does move to left field, as he did last night. Just sayin’: if you use a WAR calculator in the current offensive environment, an elite defensive third baseman who manages a mere 90 OPS+ (10% worse than league average, and well within the hopes for Olt’s projections) is worth about 3.2 WAR over 150 games.
- Not just because of that stuff, but also because of what I’ve seen this Spring and because he’s always had the upside: I’d like to see Olt getting the bulk of the starts at third base until Kris Bryant comes up to force a decision. I really like Arismendy Alcantara and Tommy La Stella, but not enough to say that they should be getting more at bats against righties at third base than Olt. Not right now. Rotating in there and at other positions? Sure. Of course. But if run prevention is all the more important in April, then put the best defender out there (again, he’s got plenty of offensive upside, too).
- Olt is hitting .278/.395/.611 on the Spring, which is obviously quite good. Tons of power, tons of walks. The 30.2% strikeout rate makes you a little nervous, but he’s a guy who can live in that range and still be a productive player. Not much higher, though. For what it’s worth, he was at 30.6% last Spring, but the walk rate was much, much lower.
- Tom Verducci predicts some surprise, turnaround playoff teams for 2015 – after touting his success in doing so previously in recent years – and the Cubs come in as the number two team he mentions. The reasons are what you’d expect, and Verducci rightly notes that, with this team, there are going to be days when they look unstoppable … and days when you can’t believe they ever scored a single run.
- Joe Maddon says Opening Day is in jeopardy for Chris Denorfia, who is dealing with a hamstring injury (Cubs.com). Yesterday, we discussed how the Cubs would handle the roster implications of that injury, and it dramatically increases the odds the one or two of Ryan Sweeney, Matt Szczur, and Junior Lake make the team.
- David Cameron calculates, based on projected valuations, the point at which the Cubs will have lost value – actual, monetary value (projected) – in waiting too long to call up Kris Bryant. That is to say: how long would the Cubs have to wait this year to call up Kris Bryant before they would cost themselves more in 2015 than they gain in 2021? Obviously it’s a super speculative exercise, but it’s really interesting all the same. The finding is 50 games in 2015, but getting there is what you’ll want to read.
- The United Club at Wrigley Field is now the Audi Club, expanding the partnership between the Cubs and Audi with a new naming rights deal.
- A couple more highlights to show off from last night’s game if you couldn’t watch (here is an earlier set), and each is a nifty double play:
On the Bryant one, I didn’t realize live that the runner was trying to steal third – I thought he was just taking too many liberties – but it’s still good on Bryant for getting the ball back in quickly with a solid, on-target throw.
On the first one, it’s impressive on both ends, with La Stella making a nice barehanded play, and then Alcantara quickly coming over to third to be in position to cover for the possibility that the runner would turn at second. Sure, that’s just a fundamental thing, but Alcantara hasn’t played much shortstop lately – well done.