Mike Olt making the Chicago Cubs Opening Day roster was a bit of a surprise, but it wasn’t for a lack of talent as much as it was inexperience and uncertainty. It wasn’t known if his shoulder was 100% healthy, but it was clear that his vision issues were in the past. But his current 0-16 slump left manager Rick Renteria no choice but to sit the powerful hitter.
Olt has shown his power capability, as he has nine home runs, but none since May 18. He is however the first Cubs with nine before June 1 since Geovany Soto in May 2008, his Rookie of the Year season. While the power is there, so is the swing and miss. Olt’s strikeout rate is as high as it’s ever been (35%), including his time in the minors. Renteria doesn’t seem to concerned with the numbers though.
“I don’t know if his strikeouts have historically been where they’re at, they probably are,” Renteria said. “He’s going to have a ‘swing and a miss.’ We’re not worried about that. What we’d like to see more of is when he gets in there, have good at-bats and give himself a chance to barrel a ball up.” h/t Jesse Rogers, ESPN Chicago
The Cubs are showing confidence in Olt by keeping him on the roster, and not sending him down to get more at-bats. in the minors. He is clearly a work in progress, but the Cubs brass feels his upside is worth keeping on the big league team and working through his slump.
“It doesn’t mean he’s not going to get back to that opportunity,” Renteria continued. “It’s going to be the same way [as before]. We’re going to try and find spots.”
Olt was tabbed to start tonight against the Pirates lefty Francisco Liriano.
The Cubs will continue to try to find the match-up that gives Olt the best chance to succeed. It sounds like something teams should always do, but in the case of a slumping hitter they make the extra effort to do so. If this was a Cubs team in the thick of the race, it would be likely he would have been sent down to work out the kinks.
“I’ve had stints where I feel like every at-bat I get a hit, and the next day, you wake up and something’s not there and you’re searching and you can’t find it for a couple weeks,” Olt said. “It’s all a matter of snapping out of it and finding something that works.”
There are no unrealistic expectations of Olt that he will be a .300 hitter. But his power can give the Cubs another bat to help an offense that struggles at times. The key will be cutting down on the strikeouts, putting wood on the ball and increasing his in play percentage.
Olt still has time to get back on track with a Cubs team that has nothing but time right now. Sooner will of course be better than later.