First thing I need you to do before you read this is free your mind of the Chicago Cubs’ top prospect Kris Bryant. We aren’t talking about so and so “until Bryant arrives”. Mike Olt was once regarded in a similar fashion in the Texas Rangers organization. If he can put it all together, there’s no reason he can’t be a permanent piece.
When the Cubs picked up Olt from Texas, he had been suffering from vision issues, and was just getting past all those when they acquired him. By then, the Rangers had “given up” on him. One man’s trash is another’s treasure.
He showed off the promise that Texas once saw in him with a spectacular spring with the Cubs last season, earning himself the Opening Day start at third. The power continued to show, but so did the inability to make contact.
On July 22, Olt was leading NL rookies in home runs with 12, and had 30 RBIs to go along with that. But that was the date he was sent back to Triple-A. At that time, of his 26 hits, he had the 12 home runs, and four doubles. Only 10 of his hits weren’t for extra-bases. And he struck out 84 times in 187 plate appearances while batting .139. He was all or nothing at the plate, more nothing. Defensively, he was solid. Made the routine plays, with a few spectacular thrown in–so nothing was lost there.
He would spend a little over a month in Iowa before getting called back up in September. Though his playing time was minimal, Olt hit .263 (10-for-38), and struck out 16 times–a much better ratio than his first stint. Of his hits, four doubles and the rest were singles. No home runs.
I suppose that could be taken several ways. That the only way he can hit for average is to not hit for power, which is his strongest attribute. But I believe it was a stage in the evolution of Olt. One that has continued this spring.
The power is apparent once again, as he has two home runs already this spring. But the most notable change has been his ability to battle late in the count, hold off bad pitches and have solid at-bats. He’s still struck out three times in 10 plate appearances, but he’s walked three times as well.
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The progression of Olt could prove huge for the Cubs. Yes, Bryant looks every bit of the top prospect and will be in Chicago very soon. But if Olt is producing consistently, you won’t demote or bench him simply because Bryant arrives on the North Side. Added to that is the fact that Bryant still could see time in the outfield.
The overflow of this possibility is that if he does show the ability to produce, you’ll have a case of Olt, Bryant, Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo–and possibly Javier Baez and Addison Russell as part of the infield fold. Toss in Arismendy Alcantara while we’re at it.
There is never a thing as too much talent. Ever.