The writing may be on the wall for the Cubs’ Olt
Sadly, the Chicago Cubs’Mike Olt
may be the poster child for prospects that don’t meet expectation. And it’s not necessarily all his fault. Injuries slowed him early on after vision issues affected him following being hit in the head. Last season he looked like the prospect the Rangers thought would be a key piece, winning the Cubs third base job in spring, only to fail to do anything but homer or strike out once he had the job, leading to a demotion late in the season.
Now, the combination of getting hit on the wrist by a pitch causing a hairline fracture to keep him out three weeks or more, and the call up of Kris Bryant and Addison Russell? This mountain for Olt to climb may have finally gotten too tall.
Olt has the tools to be a great everyday third baseman. He showed improvement once again this spring to overcome his strikeout propensity, by putting the ball in play more often. He’ll still strike out, but he’s advanced his game at the plate–at least for the small sample before getting injured. His glove has never been an issue, only his shoulder was entering spring last year. But since then he’s shown to be an average to above-average defender. The only downside is he’s for the most part third or first–although he has seen a bit of work in the outfield.
The biggest issue for Olt now is the personnel around him. Anthony Rizzo isn’t going anywhere. And now with the addition of Russell, the prospect of Javier Baez possibly returning, Bryant’s addition and then Starlin Castro? Olt may simply have reached the extreme odd-man out status.
Bryant’s final position is to be determined. Russell is by far the best shortstop in the system defensively, but suddenly Castro is intent to fight for his spot, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Baez–should he return from the family tragedy and rectify his strikeout issues–would likely slot into second base. Meaning Castro or Russell–likely Castro–would slide to third and move Bryant to the outfield. There are questions about Bryant at third base because of his height, but so far he has looked solid at the hot corner.
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Still, there are a lot of variables in this equation, and Olt isn’t gone. But he will have to put up his strongest fight, at least in the sense of finding a place with the Cubs. Otherwise, he may find himself a midseason trade piece–which in reality may be the best thing not just for the Cubs, but Olt as well.