With Spring Training officially underway for the 2015 season, there is undoubtedly a buzz in the air amongst the Chicago Cubs. Confidence is as high as it’s been in recent years, and a sense of hope has settled within the hearts of most fans.
For the players, this is an exciting time as well. For some, it’s a chance to rebound from a rough year. But for others, most notably Kris Bryant, it’s a chance to prove that they belong on the Opening Day roster. While this may be a feasible task for others in camp, it will unfortunately be nearly impossible for the young prospect as the Cubs would like to keep his free agent clock from starting for as long as possible.
So with Bryant out of the picture for at least the first month of the season, focus will likely shift to Mike Olt and recently acquired infielder, Tommy La Stella. It is widely believed that the battle for the Opening Day start at third will come down to them, so this will definitely be something to watch for throughout the spring. With that said, let’s take a look at the numbers.
Olt, 26, had a rough year in 2014. After a promising start, he hit just .160 in 89 games, to go along with 12 home runs and 33 RBI. In addition to that, he managed just 25 walks while striking out 100 times. Although he did post a respectable .981 fielding percentage, numbers like that definitely didn’t cut it, and Olt was ultimately sent down to Triple A Iowa, before being recalled for a brief stint in September. Obviously, he has some work to do if he’s going to win that opening day start.
La Stella, 25, began the 2014 season at Triple A Gwinnett where he performed well, posting a .293 batting average and a .384 on base percentage on 47 games. Once he was promoted to the Major leagues in late May, he continued to impress by leading all National League rookies with 36 walks and a .328 OBP in 93 games. The left-handed hitter also had a reasonable .251 batting average to go along a home run.
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On the field, La Stella finished the season with a .984 fielding percentage. And while he is naturally a second basemen, the transition to third will hopefully be a seamless one.
After taking a deeper look into the numbers, I think it’s obvious that La Stella makes more sense at third base, despite his lack of experience at the position. But even if the competition between the two players is just too close to call, there’s always an option to platoon.
And that’s why depth is a beautiful thing.