Spring Training Update: Bryant in the OF, Olt's Chances, Lake's Changes, and Visuals

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Spring Training Update: Bryant in the OF, Olt’s Chances, Lake’s Changes, and Visuals

Chicago Cubs

mike olt cubs featureA variety of Spring Training-related bits and discussions …

  • Some folks got upended by Joe Maddon’s revelation that Kris Bryant will be exposed to the outfield this Spring, in addition to focusing on his defense at third base (see Maddon’s comments here, for example). I’m not sure why it caused a stir, given that the front office has said repeatedly this offseason that a number of positional players will get exposure to other positions in the Spring to increase their versatility. Further, they’ve also said it specifically with respect to Kris Bryant and the outfield dating all the way back in September. So, while it is notable that Bryant is going to get some outfield exposure, this doesn’t necessarily mean he’s moving positions any time soon, and this is not a change in course. Bryant’s focus will remain third base, where his value to the team would be highest and best (if he can play sufficient defense there). But if he’s comfortable and able to play a corner outfield position, the Cubs will simply have more options going forward. That’s all this is.
  • Maddon added the Bryant could be a good long-term solution at third base, but nobody is ready to commit to anything (Cubs.com). For his part, Bryant is saying the things you would expect him to say (CSN).
  • In the near-term, my guess is that there’s going to be some serious mixing and matching at third base with Mike Olt/Tommy La Stella/Arismendy Alcantara/Javier Baez/etc. until someone really settles in as the regular, and that “someone” might not come along until Bryant is up. If you had to pick one from that group who might take the reins at third, it’s still probably Olt. For his part, Olt feels like he is in good shape, worked hard on the mental side of the game this offseason, and knows he’s got an opportunity ahead of him (Sun-Times). I know we’ve been through this before, but it’s worth saying again: Olt has the power, the plate discipline, and the defense to be an extremely valuable regular at third base. It would be awesome if he broke out, and then the Cubs had to confront a tough Kris Bryant positional question. Expectations, however, should be very tempered, because Olt become a “regular” is unlikely. The kind of swing-and-miss issues with which Olt has dealt in recent years tend not to vanish (though it can happen). If he becomes a productive bench player for a few years for the Cubs, that should be considered a win.
  • Look for the Cubs to be a little extra competitive in Spring Training games this year, as Joe Maddon says he likes to win in Spring Training because he doesn’t want his guys having to change their mindset once the season gets going (ESPN). For what it’s worth, Maddon’s Rays teams were 76-62 in his last five Spring Trainings.
  • Carrie Muskat has a great set of notes from Arizona, which is worth checking out. One part that jumped out at me? Junior Lake says he worked with minor league hitting coach Desi Wilson this offseason on one thing in particular: getting on base. I find that particularly interesting because, as we’ve discussed recently, Lake became something of an on-base-machine in the DWL, in ways very different from his previous performances. Moreover, Lake talked to Muskat about changing his mentality into getting on base and being driven in by guys like Rizzo and Castro, which meshes with his power being down this offseason, in favor of a better contact rate and more walks. Previously, we were just doing some speculating based on the numbers, but now it looks like we actually have something: Lake, with the support of the Cubs, appears to be in the process of trying to reinvent himself offensively as an OBP/speed guy, rather than the power/speed guy that his raw abilities screamed at those who evaluated him for so many years. It’s not an easy change to make, but Lake is so physically gifted and is just 24 … you wonder. Maybe it’s possible. With an option left, it’s likely Lake heads to Iowa to keep working on things. But, hey, you never know.
  • And now some visuals:

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.