Remember back before the season started, when we dreamed of Mike Olt locking down the hot corner and pushing Kris Bryant out to what might eventually be a more natural position in left field? Ah, the halcyon days of wishful thinking…sorry, got a little swoony there. Okay, so maybe I was hoping for that scenario a little more than most of you, but the idea was there.
The goal with stockpiling prospects, particularly multiples who play the same position, is that one of them will eventually excel and wrest control of his future from the rest of the pack. You get one guy to really stand out and then you can figure out what to do with his counterparts. No one wants to play the shell game with players, though I suppose it worked with Albert Pujols.
If you recall, El Hombre split time between all four corners a 21-year-old (yeah, right) rookie in 2001 before shifting primarily to LF with a minor in 1B in both 2002 and ’03. It wasn’t until his 4th year in the league that the Cardinals finally gave up on the experiment and shifted Big Bert to first permanently.
But that’s a generational talent who was aided by the Cards’ voodoo magic, and perhaps something else that involved needles. I’m speaking of course, of acupuncture. You probably thought I meant B-12 shots; shame on you. Anyway, you make concessions for a guy who came out of the womb posting a 1.000+ OPS, even if the date of said birth is in question.
Kris Bryant might be that same sort of talent, but I think we can safely say that Mike Olt is not. So why am I even writing about this? Well, as I said earlier, I’m still not sure KB is going to be able to stick at the hot corner and I have a man-crush on Olt that stretches back to before my chance meeting with him in Tempe a couple months ago.
Then again, Bryant has posted a UZR of 4.2 so far this season, good for 8th in baseball. During his abbreviated stints with the Cubs, Olt has failed to flash the glove that helped to make him such a highly-touted prospect, and has posted -2.2 and -0.3 UZR tallies. So maybe he’s not a good fit to push Bryant to the outfield after all.
If I continue with this circular logic, I’m going to be dizzier than Dean and twice as likely to say something dumb. With that in mind, I’ll keep this pretty short. I honestly don’t know what the Cubs will/should do with Olt now that he’s officially been activated from the 60-day DL, though it’s feeling more and more like he’ll be moved as an ancillary part of a deadline deal in much the same way he came to the Cubs.
When they got him from the Rangers as a part of the Matt Garze trade, the Cubs felt as though they had really fleeced the Rangers. And while that’s still the case, Justin Grimm and Carl’s Junior (or C.J., or whatever he’s calling himself these days) are looking like the real haul from the deal.
But the reason the Cubs were able to pry the former surefire slugger from Texas in the first place was inconsistent problems stemming from injuries and vision issues. His eyesight is fine now by all accounts, though the elevated strikeout rates leave some questions there. Still, even the best prospect in the world has little value if he can’t stay on the field.
And that, to me, is the biggest concern for Olt. Sure, his injuries have been more of bad-luck variety. But wrists are scary for baseball players, particularly for a guy who’s got to have prodigious power in order to compensate for obvious swing-and-miss tendencies. And when you’ve got a team struggling to score runs as the Cubs are, you can’t really deploy another feast-or-famine hitter.
I would love nothing more than to see this young man come back stronger than ever and to find a spot on this Cubs roster, but I can’t see that being anything more than a right-handed platoon bat in the OF at this point. With guys like Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber primed to get another crack at the bigs, I just can’t envision a scenario in which Olt can stick.
But I think he can be a part of a trade that jointly helps the Cubs and gives him the opportunity to start or play a more integral role on another team. And if he can boost that .214/.254/.393 line down in AAA, I think that’s exactly what we’ll see here before long. Again, I love this guy’s attitude and the latent potential, I just worry that it’ll never be realized in Chicago.
The best part of all of this, though, is the fact that we can discuss Mike Olt as an ancillary piece. My fear early on was that Bryant would flail a bit at third and that the Cubs would be using him as merely a stopgap at the position. While he still may be moved later, he’s done better than I had initially expected.
So the Olt situation becomes yet another of those first-world problems the Cubs seem to have so many of. As such, I’m going to set this on the back burner and get to worrying about the real-life problem of pushing across more runs on a regular basis. Facing Chris Sale probably isn’t a good place to start though.