Thursday morning, the Chicago Cubs announced Mike Olt will be on the Opening Day roster at third base, which brought joy to many fans, who feared another year with a platoon system featuring .210 hitting Luis Valbuena and journeyman Donnie Murphy.
How could the arrival of one player, acquired just eight months ago, have stirred up a fanbase to a point where finding someone who was not rooting for him would be hard to do, to get the starting job?
With the gradual rebuilding process Cubs management is doing, fans were hungry for a glimpse at the future. They could watch Javier Baez break a car window and hit solo home run after solo home run or look at other upcoming prospects, but all of them were projected to start in the minors, some as low as Advanced-A Daytona. This leads to a fanbase frustrated at the slow process with National League Central divisional rivals: Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis all in serious playoff contention and having strong farm systems.
The Cubs fans remember the “can`t miss” prospects like Corey Patterson and can posses a lack of trust that the entire future of the organization rests on kids` shoulders who have not seen any major league pitching, and some prospects have not even reached Double-A not let alone Triple-A.
Albert Almora, projected as a future all-star center fielder for the Cubs, was the sixth overall pick in the 2012 MLB Entry Draft and due to injuries has not moved past Single-A Kane County. Kris Bryant, the number two overall pick in the 2013 draft, who is touted as a monster in the making, led Advanced-A Daytona to a Florida State League championship last season, but has not seen Double-A pitching and the Cubs’ top prospect Javier Baez has not seen major league pitching aside from spring training.
The point is these prospects are just kids. Cubs fans have heard promises about young kids who have not even played above Double-A ball to be supposed franchise savers for decades. With Olt, the fanbase gets to see a potential piece to the next World Series team at Wrigley. Olt will provide Cubs fans someone to watch and a glimpse at what this rebuilding process could turn into.
The fans who have waited a well-documented number of years want to see the types of trades like the Matt Garza deal pay off in the majors. They crave justification for the deep rebuild of the fourth most profitable team in baseball.
When Olt produces as he is expected to, Cubs fans who need to see progress in the majors, the fans that need to see some of the young guys prove they can stick around for a long time, will get to watch the 25-year old Olt cement himself into the Cubs future plans.
Having such an exciting young slugger like Olt on the major league team other than Castro or Rizzo, will help many fans who are tired of hearing “eventually” realize the Cubs are close to crawling back atop the division. Instead of heading into the season with stop-gaps such as Valbuena or Murphy, who have little chance of being a part of that next great team, Cubs fans will actually be able to see a piece to the Cubs’ future.
While it will likely be another season of mid-season trades with players like Jason Hammel and Jose Veras, Cubs fans will get one great bit of news Thursday morning. They will see progress in the deep rebuild trotting out onto Wrigley Field.
That`s why the Cubs fanbase was pulling for Olt. A glimpse at the future and progress at the minor and major league level.