Much has changed in the last year. Is it possible that Mike Olt has more potential with the Cubs than Javier Baez?
When talk about Mike Olt and his role with the Chicago Cubs this year takes place, it’s generally in the form of him “keeping the seat warm” for Kris Bryant until his expected arrival. His stock was on the rise this time last season as he won the Opening Day start at third base.
It wasn’t long before he showed his power, as well as his contact issues. Eventually Olt was sent back to Triple-A as the veteran Luis Valbuena saw most of the action at third. The Cubs would eventually start calling up the youth, as Arismendy Alcantara made his way to Chicago, followed not long after by Javier Baez and Jorge Soler.
Both made their mark, homering in their first games in the Majors, with Baez hitting what would be game-winner against the Colorado Rockies. These three, as well as Bryant became the talk of Chicago. Olt became somewhat forgotten. A man with no place according to many.
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Now, here we are mid-March, and once again Olt is finding himself on the good side of things in Chicago, while the once “sure thing” in Baez is far from that. Is it possible that Olt is the one that is more likely to produce for the Cubs and have value? Could he fulfill his promise, while Baez does not?
So far in 2015, here’s a basic comparison of the two at the plate. Now, I feel we’re comparing apples to apples. Big power, big strikeout guys.
2015 Spring Training Stats
Now, some may argue that these are Spring Training numbers, and you can’t take much from these. Fair enough. So the only other “evidence” I can offer up is their numbers from their rookie campaigns–both last year.
2014 Regular Season Stats
So what do we have with these two sluggers? One thing is for certain, about every third time up–these guys are leaving the yard. But that comes with a lot of strikeouts as well. But what is apparent is that Olt seems to have made some adjustments during his demotion and over the winter. He’s still striking out just under half of the time this spring, but he’s also taking walks. And not every hit leaves the yard. Olt is actually putting the ball in play.
Baez on the other hand doesn’t seem to be making those adjustments. There’s the talk that he’s pressing too hard. or that he wants to impress. That’s all fine, but Olt wants to as well, and he’s done a much better job of it.
I made my thoughts known a month ago. Baez needs to start in Iowa. I said it following the end of the regular season as well. But it was met with harsh criticism. People didn’t think he should be sent down. He’s adjusted before, he will again they said. That is my hope as well, but we have to also be realistic. Not every one of these guys will succeed, and not all at the same time.
Maybe Olt is finally “getting it”. Hitting .160 and striking out 100 times was enough for him. And while I wouldn’t gloat about his spring numbers, that .393 on-base percentage looks pretty good right now.
Both are solid defenders, and have the ability to play a few different positions. Baez from second base all the way around to third. Olt on the corner infield spots, and possibly some corner outfield. So there is some “versatility” with each. But if either falls to a reserve role, there are plenty of guys ready to take their place for the long run.
These two players will once again boil down to the argument of potential. Both have it. we know all about Baez, and Olt was that guy in the Texas Rangers system for a while. But like Baez, he hit a rut early on, and the Rangers eventually decided he was expendable. He’s 26, four years older than Baez because he played college ball. Not always the norm for a prospect.
It’s possible that Baez could turn it around just like Olt appears to be doing. But it might not be right now. And with the rest of the talented infield prospects milling around in the Cubs’ farm system, you can’t be sure if you miss your window if you’ll get another.
Olt was lucky enough to. Baez may not if Addison Russell has a say in it.