As we begin to close in on just a few more weeks until pitchers and catchers report for spring training, the Chicago Cubs are a team that won’t have a ton of major storylines at the Major League level. Most of the attention they’ve garnered in the last couple of years has surrounded what they’ve been able to accomplish in the minor league ranks as they build up their organization, and it should be the same story for much of 2014.
However, while the Cubs aren’t expected to be anywhere near contention with this current big league roster, they will have some changes and should be improved off of another dismal year. One player to keep an eye on, especially early on in the 2014 campaign is Mike Olt. A former top prospect of the Texas Rangers, Olt was acquired in the deal that sent Matt Garza down south, but hasn’t had his name pop up often in the discussion about top prospects within the Cubs’ organization.
That doesn’t mean he isn’t going to get an opportunity to succeed. In fact, Olt represents the most big league ready of the Cubs’ plethora of third base prospects, which mean he could get an early crack here in the new season. He showed signs of regaining form as a top prospect, but his 2013 was mostly a lost cause due to some vision issues early on that stemmed from being hit by a pitch. He didn’t make an appearance with the Cubs after being acquired, spending all of his time with the organization, to date, in Iowa.
As things stand right now, the Cubs appear prepared to trot Luis Valbuena out at the hot corner, but things could still change. Darwin Barney is on anything but sure footing with the organization and Valbuena has the versatility that could allow him to move to second in the event that Barney is traded. Even if he’s not, a platoon of Valbuena and Barney would help the Cubs to be much more successful offensively than they would with only Barney there.
Such a series of events would allow the Cubs to give Olt a run at third base, which could be in their best interest. If he’s given an early opportunity, the Cubs are more likely to find out just what they have in him, as prospects like Kris Bryant prepare to make the jump, perhaps at some point late in 2014. If he’s able to make the impact that he appears capable of, he could add 20-25 homers to the mix for the Cubs, and an ability to get on base. He’ll strike out plenty, but the good likely outweighs the bad with Olt, offensively. He also brings solid enough defense to the position.
This will be an interesting thing to watch for the Cubs early on. Mike Olt isn’t the coveted prospect he once was, as he wasn’t even the centerpiece of the Garza trade. Nonetheless, he still has that ability to be a big bat for the Cubs, and should be afforded an opportunity to show what he can do early on in 2014. If he’s unable to do so, he runs the risk of having Bryant or others pass him up.