View From The Bleachers

Talking Cubs Baseball Since 2003

Thursday

15

May 2014

88

COMMENTS

Is Mike Olt the Long Term Answer at Third?

Written by , Posted in General

The 2014 season for the Cubs wasn’t going to be a year where the postseason was going to be reached. Everyone knew that going in to the year. The big project this year, for the big league club, was the development of the younger players who regressed last season. The names that come up when this topic is discussed are Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro. However, there is one guy who had a terrible year in the minors in 2013 that got his chance to contribute to the big league roster this season, and that is Mike Olt.

The 25 year old third baseman started last season in AAA with Round Rock in the Texas Rangers organization. At the trade deadline, Olt and three other prospects were traded to the Cubs for pitcher Matt Garza. After being traded to the Cubs, he continued to struggle in AAA Iowa. Between the two teams, he hit .201 with a .684 OPS and a strikeout rate of 31%. In a winter league game before the start of the 2013 season, he was hit in the head by a pitch, and he continued to have head problems throughout the season. In the spring of 2014, the third baseman got a chance.

Olt made the team out of spring training and started at third on Opening Day in Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, the season did not start out as good as many of us had hoped. He hit just .164 with an OPS of .589 and 4 home runs in 61 plate appearances in March and April while splitting time with Luis Valbuena at third. Also, Olt had a strikeout rate of 35% and a walk rate of 5%. He was struggling at the plate and trying to get regular playing time at third base.

It has come full circle for the third baseman recently. Olt has started 8 and played in all but one of the Cubs’ 12 games in May, including starting 6 out of the last 7. All of his stats are up after this month, including his average (.233), OBP (.361), slugging percentage (.633), and OPS (.994). Also, Olt is hitting the ball out of the ballpark of late. In those 12 games, he has hit 4 home runs  to give him 8 total on the year. Another good sign is that his strikeout rate is down lately to 25%, walk rate is up to 8% for the season, and  OPS+ is just above average at 101.

As Olt gets more playing time and officially takes over the everyday third base job, his numbers will continue to grow. His progress is arguably just as important as Rizzo’s and Castro’s. If Olt can take a stranglehold on the third base job, the future of the Cubs looks a lot clearer. There are a few candidates to take over the third base job, but Olt can take over permanently with a solid year in 2014.

One of these contenders for the third base job is the first round pick last year, the highly touted Kris Bryant. The bat is not an issue for Bryant; he will hit in the majors, but the glove can be a little shaky at times. Olt is not a gold glove defender at third, but he can be an above average defender. Bryant projects better as a corner outfielder with his size. Another candidate is Christian Villanueva, the AAA third baseman now. Villanueva’s glove has been credited as the best defender in the Cubs system. There are questions of how his bat will translate to the big leagues. Olt’s bat will be more value than Villanueva’s glove in the long run.

How nice would it be going into 2015 knowing who will be your third baseman for the next 6 years? Olt would be a great piece to have in the fold going forward. He is under team control through the 2019 season, which gives the Cubs flexibility going forward. It is not out of the question that Olt could secure NL Rookie of the Year honors. The Cubs third baseman is leading all NL rookies in home runs, RBI’s, slugging percentage, and OPS. If Olt can get his average and on base percentage up, he very well can be a top candidate for the Rookie of the Year award. To go along with those rookie stats, Olt is in the top 10 in the NL in home runs with eight.

Right now, all Olt needs is playing time regularly and that will come. Luis Valbuena is better suited compared to Darwin Barney at second and that will open up third base for Olt full time. There is a ton of “if” with Olt, but there is a ton of upside as well. The Cubs just may have found their third baseman going forward as they move into their window of competing.

  • Dusty_Baylor

    Agreed Luke. Olt has a decent glove, and a ton of power. If he can hit enough to play, and if Renteria will just play him more…and please, please find some bench time for Darwin Barney…. maybe we’ve got something here. Hopefully Bryant will keep hitting, and if/when he gets to Iowa…maybe try him in the outfield too.

  • Dusty_Baylor

    Agreed Luke. Olt has a decent glove, and a ton of power. If he can hit enough to play, and if Renteria will just play him more…and please, please find some bench time for Darwin Barney…. maybe we’ve got something here. Hopefully Bryant will keep hitting, and if/when he gets to Iowa…maybe try him in the outfield too.

  • Doc Raker

    I like your perspective Luke, if Olt raises his average and keeps his power that is a big piece in the Cubs line up. I am glad the Cubs are giving Olt this chance, add Bryant, Soler and 1 or 2 more prospects and the Cubs have a serious line up in the near future. Is that a picture of you from the Cubs convention snuggling up to Clark the Bear? If so I hope you wacked him upside the back of the head after the picture.

  • Doc Raker

    I like your perspective Luke, if Olt raises his average and keeps his power that is a big piece in the Cubs line up. I am glad the Cubs are giving Olt this chance, add Bryant, Soler and 1 or 2 more prospects and the Cubs have a serious line up in the near future. Is that a picture of you from the Cubs convention snuggling up to Clark the Bear? If so I hope you wacked him upside the back of the head after the picture.

  • Mark_from_Toronto

    Watching Olt so far this season I do think he has potential to be an everyday player at 3B. He sort of reminds me of Rizzo last season when we was struggling at the plate, the homerun power was there, it’s just the approach was off hence the low batting average and OBP. If he can learn the same sort of patient approach Rizzo has been taking so far this season and bring up his batting average I can seem him with the Cubs for awhile.

  • Mark_from_Toronto

    Watching Olt so far this season I do think he has potential to be an everyday player at 3B. He sort of reminds me of Rizzo last season when we was struggling at the plate, the homerun power was there, it’s just the approach was off hence the low batting average and OBP. If he can learn the same sort of patient approach Rizzo has been taking so far this season and bring up his batting average I can seem him with the Cubs for awhile.

  • Dork

    I am starting to loose the faith. not in Olt, but in the whole process. I just don’t see an answer on the mound. If Olt does not make it there are quite a few other possibilities. Baez, Bryant, Villanuea, Bruno/Alcantara even Vitters.

    • Jerry in Wisconsin

      I completely agree. They will either need to pay the dread pirate and or 1 or 2 of the top free agents to become competitive.

      • PLCB3

        Do you think Tampa trades Price, or let’s him walk? If he is traded, will his new team give him a monster deal or will he go to FA? If it is a trade and contract, do you give what Tampa will demand?

      • Dork

        I think you wait until he becomes a free agent if you want him.

      • PLCB3

        So you think none of the other 29 teams will make a deal with Tampa? Would you give him what he’s going to command in FA even though he will be a liability at the end of the deal?

      • Dork

        The above statement is a credit to Jed and Theo, because we have never had prospects stacked up like this. We had the few that had to make it because that is all we had. Right now we would be sitting with Baez struggling and that is all. Having said that it will take signing free agents, and probably pitching to make the cubs competative.

      • PLCB3

        Are you talking a drunken spending spree like the one in 2007? Because I don’t want to do that again.

      • Dork

        I think you need a mix of spending and trading and drafting and developing and some luck to win a championship. You wont win withot some spending.

      • Dork

        Don’t kid yourself, the more you have to spend the more margin of error you have.

      • PLCB3

        Still i don’t want to give out a bunch of long-term contracts and be stuck with unproductive veterans at the end. Look at the Yankees. That 400M they gave Sabathia and Texieria led to a championship but now they’re aging and on the DL a lot.

      • Dork

        So you would not take a championship at that price?

      • PLCB3

        This isn’t about winning 1 title in 10 years. It’s about being in playoff contention 10 years in 10 years. 10 playoff trips in 10 years. 10 NLCS trips in 10 years. 10 World Series trips in 10 years. 10 World Series championships in 10 years. The Yankees have 27 championships for a reason and there is also a good reason why it took 9 years in between their last 2. I don’t want a flash in the pan. I want a run like the Braves had.

      • Joe Aiello

        Ah, so you want a run that yields three losses out of four trips to the World Series and just one ring. Gotcha.

      • PLCB3

        No, I want 14 consecutive playoff trips. Once you’re in the playoffs, it’s a crapshoot. In baseball, IMO, all you can ask for is to be in the playoffs.

      • PLCB3

        If the Cubs make the playoffs 14 consecutive years and don’t win a single World Series championship, then Mr. Neitzel is going to be an insanely rich man at the end of those 14 years. I’m through the first 2 chapters so far BTW and I love the book. So glad I met him at the Convention.

      • Dork

        I would agree that the Yankees have not been well run in this era, but they still have more championships than the cubs. Oh and the Yankees have been in the playoffs every year as you describe. I just think that to be a fan of a team that has not won a championship in over 100 years, to be so specific in how that championship has to come is somewhat strange. I would like to see one however, and I promise I would not complain if the cubs overpay for it. Season 3 in this rebuild has been hard because I had higher expectations for Win – loss. Dominant pitching wins in the playoffs, it is somewhat obvious that you have to get to the playoffs to have a chance to win. In year 3, I Just do not see where the dominant pitching will come from.

      • PLCB3

        How about if the Cubs get drunk and win one, then will you demand they build a sustainable winner after that?

      • Dork

        It’d take it, I am just that desperate.

  • Dork

    I am starting to loose the faith. not in Olt, but in the whole process. I just don’t see an answer on the mound. If Olt does not make it there are quite a few other possibilities. Baez, Bryant, Villanuea, Bruno/Alcantara even Vitters.

    • Jerry in Wisconsin

      I completely agree. They will either need to pay the dread pirate and or 1 or 2 of the top free agents to become competitive.

      • AC0000000

        Do you think Tampa trades Price, or let’s him walk? If he is traded, will his new team give him a monster deal or will he go to FA? If it is a trade and contract, do you give what Tampa will demand?

      • Dork

        I think you wait until he becomes a free agent if you want him.

      • AC0000000

        So you think none of the other 29 teams will make a deal with Tampa? Would you give him what he’s going to command in FA even though he will be a liability at the end of the deal?

      • Dork

        The above statement is a credit to Jed and Theo, because we have never had prospects stacked up like this. We had the few that had to make it because that is all we had. Right now we would be sitting with Baez struggling and that is all. Having said that it will take signing free agents, and probably pitching to make the cubs competative.

      • AC0000000

        Are you talking a drunken spending spree like the one in 2007? Because I don’t want to do that again.

      • Dork

        I think you need a mix of spending and trading and drafting and developing and some luck to win a championship. You wont win without some spending.

      • Dork

        Don’t kid yourself, the more you have to spend the more margin of error you have.

      • AC0000000

        Still i don’t want to give out a bunch of long-term contracts and be stuck with unproductive veterans at the end. Look at the Yankees. That 400M they gave Sabathia and Texieria led to a championship but now they’re aging and on the DL a lot.

      • Dork

        So you would not take a championship at that price?

      • AC0000000

        This isn’t about winning 1 title in 10 years. It’s about being in playoff contention 10 years in 10 years. 10 playoff trips in 10 years. 10 NLCS trips in 10 years. 10 World Series trips in 10 years. 10 World Series championships in 10 years. The Yankees have 27 championships for a reason and there is also a good reason why it took 9 years in between their last 2. I don’t want a flash in the pan. I want a run like the Braves had.

      • Joe Aiello

        Ah, so you want a run that yields three losses out of four trips to the World Series and just one ring. Gotcha.

      • AC0000000

        No, I want 14 consecutive playoff trips. Once you’re in the playoffs, it’s a crapshoot. In baseball, IMO, all you can ask for is to be in the playoffs.

      • AC0000000

        If the Cubs make the playoffs 14 consecutive years and don’t win a single World Series championship, then Mr. Neitzel is going to be an insanely rich man at the end of those 14 years. I’m through the first 2 chapters so far BTW and I love the book. So glad I met him at the Convention.

      • Dork

        I would agree that the Yankees have not been well run in this era, but they still have more championships than the cubs. Oh and the Yankees have been in the playoffs every year as you describe. I just think that to be a fan of a team that has not won a championship in over 100 years, to be so specific in how that championship has to come is somewhat strange. I would like to see one however, and I promise I would not complain if the cubs overpay for it. Season 3 in this rebuild has been hard because I had higher expectations for Win – loss. Dominant pitching wins in the playoffs, it is somewhat obvious that you have to get to the playoffs to have a chance to win. In year 3, I Just do not see where the dominant pitching will come from.

      • AC0000000

        How about if the Cubs get drunk and win one, then will you demand they build a sustainable winner after that?

      • Dork

        I’d take it, I am just that desperate.

  • Dork

    Anyone else notice that Veras got 2 outs on 5 pitches yesterday? A good re-start so far. He got the ERA down to 14.

    • Jerry in Wisconsin

      Please Pleae no more Veras updates until his ERA is under 5 or he is released, this season is already depressing enough.

      • Dork

        Heard from one of my brewers freinds today that Bob Ueker introduced him on the broadcast with “his era is just over 2 touchdowns”

  • Dork

    Anyone else notice that Veras got 2 outs on 5 pitches yesterday? A good re-start so far. He got the ERA down to 14.

    • Jerry in Wisconsin

      Please Pleae no more Veras updates until his ERA is under 5 or he is released, this season is already depressing enough.

      • Dork

        Heard from one of my brewers freinds today that Bob Ueker introduced him on the broadcast with “his era is just over 2 touchdowns”

  • rick

    Agree that Olt should be given 3b for 2014. If he can put up .230+ HA and 23+HR his numbers would be comparable to Rizzo for 2013. Give him the chance to prove himself; player development should be about giving the prospect the opportunity to succeed, not waiting for him to fail.

    • Agreed rick. I’m glad Olt and Lake are getting their looks…it would be perfect to see Bryant running out there in RF doing the same

    • PLCB3

      I agree, especially when the alternatives are craptastic veterans. All those games Dusty played Neifi and Hollandsworth could have been spent giving Murton and Cedeno a chance.

  • rick

    Agree that Olt should be given 3b for 2014. If he can put up .230+ HA and 23+HR his numbers would be comparable to Rizzo for 2013. Give him the chance to prove himself; player development should be about giving the prospect the opportunity to succeed, not waiting for him to fail.

    • Agreed rick. I’m glad Olt and Lake are getting their looks…it would be perfect to see Bryant running out there in RF doing the same

    • AC0000000

      I agree, especially when the alternatives are craptastic veterans. All those games Dusty played Neifi and Hollandsworth could have been spent giving Murton and Cedeno a chance.

  • Doc Raker

    Another 1 run loss which keeps that all important run differential low. Barwin Darney went yard, FROM HOME PLATE EVEN, not even from second base!

    • PLCB3

      Was it inside the park job like Campana’s that led to an ingested keyboard?

      • Buddy

        That keyboard sure was tasty.

      • Doc Raker

        Long time no hear………………the Cubs are having a losing season so far just to bring you up to speed….

      • Eddie Von White

        But next year is our year. Oh wait…we’re rebuilding…in about 5 years we will be contenders.

      • Buddy

        Sorry for being away so long. Bob Brenly and I have been following Mister Mister around the country on their latest tour of state fairs. They rock.

      • Doc Raker

        Please take Len Kasper with you, please!

      • Buddy

        I’m sure there’s an extra seat in Bob’s 1987 Monte Carlo with Len’s name on it.

    • Dork

      Don’t look now, but in his last 5 games Barney is 7/19 – 3 runs and 3 RBI’s

      • PLCB3

        He’s just keeping the seat warm

      • Doc Raker

        I try not to look when Darney is hitting………..trust me on that

      • PLCB3

        Then how did you know he went yard?

  • Doc Raker

    Another 1 run loss which keeps that all important run differential low. Barwin Darney went yard, FROM HOME PLATE EVEN, not even from second base!

    • AC0000000

      Was it inside the park job like Campana’s that led to an ingested keyboard?

      • Buddy

        That keyboard sure was tasty.

      • Doc Raker

        Long time no hear………………the Cubs are having a losing season so far just to bring you up to speed….

      • Eddie Von White

        But next year is our year. Oh wait…we’re rebuilding…in about 5 years we will be contenders.

      • Buddy

        Sorry for being away so long. Bob Brenly and I have been following Mister Mister around the country on their latest tour of state fairs. They rock.

      • Doc Raker

        Please take Len Kasper with you, please!

      • Buddy

        I’m sure there’s an extra seat in Bob’s 1987 Monte Carlo with Len’s name on it.

    • Dork

      Don’t look now, but in his last 5 games Barney is 7/19 – 3 runs and 3 RBI’s

      • AC0000000

        He’s just keeping the seat warm

      • Doc Raker

        I try not to look when Darney is hitting………..trust me on that

      • AC0000000

        Then how did you know he went yard?

  • Doc Raker

    This past week sometime Nat Schierholtz was on second base and I thought Len said he tried to steal 3rd. The pitch was fouled off. Since Len Kasper is such a lousy announcer I am not sure if I heard correctly. I thought I heard Len say in his monotone unexcited voice, “He’s running.” but then he said nothing else about it. He then said ‘fouled off” , and all I could see on the TV was the top of Nate’s helmet coming back to second base. I thought to myself, “self, why is Nate Shierholtz stealing third. Did he have a good jump?” I then expected a little commentary on the steal attempt but there was nothing. It’s like Len has no insight into the game. Len made no mention of the attempted steal thereafter, had no commentary of why Nate would be stealing 3rd, if he had a good jump if the pitcher wasn’t paying attention to him etc. Nothing, he just droned on in his monotone voice about something that had no relevance to the inner workings of the game.

    Was anyone else watching at this time and had the same thoughts?

    Why does one of the most beloved sports teams in all the world have the most boring and un-insightful broadcasters of all time?

  • Doc Raker

    This past week sometime Nat Schierholtz was on second base and I thought Len said he tried to steal 3rd. The pitch was fouled off. Since Len Kasper is such a lousy announcer I am not sure if I heard correctly. I thought I heard Len say in his monotone unexcited voice, “He’s running.” but then he said nothing else about it. He then said ‘fouled off” , and all I could see on the TV was the top of Nate’s helmet coming back to second base. I thought to myself, “self, why is Nate Shierholtz stealing third. Did he have a good jump?” I then expected a little commentary on the steal attempt but there was nothing. It’s like Len has no insight into the game. Len made no mention of the attempted steal thereafter, had no commentary of why Nate would be stealing 3rd, if he had a good jump if the pitcher wasn’t paying attention to him etc. Nothing, he just droned on in his monotone voice about something that had no relevance to the inner workings of the game.

    Was anyone else watching at this time and had the same thoughts?

    Why does one of the most beloved sports teams in all the world have the most boring and un-insightful broadcasters of all time?

  • BenRoethig

    When it comes down to it, the vision problems are done and the power and defense are all there. If he can get to average in the mid-200s, the job is his long term. If he’s nothing more than the Adam Dunn (homer or strike out) of third his defense is good enough to make him the starter. Especially with the corner outfield woes. That said, I really liked the approach Olt has been taking of late. He picked up another 3 RBIs last night all without the long ball.

    • PLCB3

      But Adam Dunn also has very good plate discipline. Obp around .400, high walk player, lot of deep counts.

  • BenRoethig

    When it comes down to it, the vision problems are done and the power and defense are all there. If he can get to average in the mid-200s, the job is his long term. If he’s nothing more than the Adam Dunn (homer or strike out) of third his defense is good enough to make him the starter. Especially with the corner outfield woes. That said, I really liked the approach Olt has been taking of late. He picked up another 3 RBIs last night all without the long ball.

    • AC0000000

      But Adam Dunn also has very good plate discipline. Obp around .400, high walk player, lot of deep counts.