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Mike Olt could be a major piece for the 2015 Chicago Cubs

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With Luis Valbuena ready to break camp as a member of the Houston Astros after being dealt earlier this offseason and Kris Byrant likely to begin the season with Triple-A Iowa to avoid starting his service clock early, former first-round pick Mike Olt has a tremendous opportunity at-hand with the Chicago Cubs this spring.

Last season, Olt put on a power display in the month of May with Chicago, clubbing five home runs and driving in 13 runs – following up a four-homer, 11 RBI April. From that point forward, spanning 44 games with the Cubs, he hit just three homers – while once again failing to put together consistent approaches at the plate – evidenced by his .160/.248/.356 line.

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When he was not with Chicago, the former highly-touted Texas Rangers prospect was with the Iowa Cubs – with whom he showed exactly why fans were once excited about the Cubs acquiring him. In just 28 games at the Triple-A level, Olt batted .302 – while more importantly compiling a .348 on-base percentage – without sacrificing any of the pop he’s become well-known for.

Now, it’s abundantly clear that Bryant, the team’s second-ranked prospect overall, will reach Wrigley Field this season. Whether or not that happens on Opening Night remains to be seen but, as noted, the front office will likely let him get things rolling in Iowa before calling him up – simply to gain another year of control down the road.

But in the meantime, the Cubs have an opening at the hot corner – and with the work he turned in with Iowa last season – there’s no reason that Olt cannot be the man to open the year there on a daily basis.

The real question, however, moving forward is what happens to the 26-year-old corner infielder after Bryant arrives in Chicago. He’s destined to be the team’s third baseman of the future – leaving Olt in an insecure and completely unenviable position.

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This likely leaves him with a pair of options in terms of his future. If he shows he can stay healthy and contribute at the major league level, the Cubs may very well opt to keep him on the big league roster as an insurance policy and for bench depth behind Bryant and first baseman Anthony Rizzo.

However, he may also become valuable enough that he elicits trade offers from other teams looking to cash in on his power – which – as noted – was on full display for the early months of 2014. With the depth of infield position prospects making their way through the farm system already, Olt may prove to be the odd man out.

Of course, nothing is for certain. He may struggle at the big league level as he did with Texas in 2012 and with Chicago last season. If that’s the case, we may be looking at an unfortunate case of another AAAA player.

Next: Chicago Cubs place seven on Baseball Prospectus' list

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