Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Despite their low expectations heading into the 2014 season, the Chicago Cubs came into the spring without many position battles to speak of, especially on the infield. It was widely expected that Darwin Barney would start at second, while Luis Valbuena would grab the hot corner. The other three spots were obviously already locked down. While catcher, first base, and short all remain occupied, we could be looking at at least one Cubs prospect ready to break camp with the team. And it isn’t Javier Baez.
While we should all expect to see Baez relatively early in the year, the prospect that could be ready to make an immediate impact with the Cubs is that of Mike Olt. A former top prospect in the Texas Rangers system, Olt appeared to be something of a throw-in in the Matt Garza trade, with C.J. Edwards serving as the centerpiece. Vision problems led to an awful year for Mike Olt in 2013, but he appears to be seeing the ball just fine this spring, putting him in the driver’s seat for that third base spot.
Word out of camp for the last couple of weeks has been that the Cubs want Olt to win that job. With a two home run performance on Wednesday night, he could be closer to doing just that. In seven spring games thus far, Olt has recorded seven hits in 21 at-bats, with a trio of home runs, and a 1.095 OPS. Small sample space, obviously, but Olt is doing exactly what was expected of him as he was a top prospect coming up through the Rangers’ system.
With those vision problems out of the way, Olt is seeing the ball extremely well this spring. If he can grasp that third base gig, he’s a power bat in the lineup for the Cubs, and a young one at just 25. He’s going to strike out a fair share, but he gets on base plenty as well, more than making up for it. He also presents an above average glove over at third base.
The only question for Mike Olt at this point is his shoulder. His time at third has actually been limited due to shoulder soreness. Once that’s cleared up, he should be able to return to action at the hot corner. If he can continue what he’s done at the plate so far this spring, the Cubs could be looking at their starting third baseman for the 2014 season. Olt is as big league ready as he’s going to be, and the Cubs sure aren’t going to let Luis Valbuena block him from making an impact at the Major League level.