When the Chicago Cubs acquired Mike Olt in the trade that sent Matt Garza to the Texas Rangers, I was super excited. After all, Olt was a top rated prospect both in the Rangers organization and in baseball over all. What was better, he played third base which was a gaping hole in the Cubs every day lineup. After all, at that time they had Luis Valbuena as the primary player at the hot corner.
At the time the Cubs acquired him, he was not having a good year in the minors due to an eye issue, one that worried the Rangers so much that he was no longer a valued prospect but an asset. Olt continued his poor play the rest of the season for the Cubs minor league club leaving some to question the judgement of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer in acquiring him. All that changed though when he had a very impressive spring winning a spot on the Cubs 25 man roster.
Even though his statistics have been rather pedestrian, he has occasional flashes of greatness, like last nights Grand Slam, which was his six homer on the season. When he has nights like these, you can only imagine what fans are thinking. Why is Olt not playing more? After all, getting into a rhythm is hard for players (especially young players) if they are not getting consistent playing time where they actually get at bats. I thought the same exact thing; until I actually took a good look at his resume on the season.
The Cubs have played in 33 games so far in 2014. In those 33 games, Olt has started 19 games, come in as a sub in nine as has been left out of the game only five times. He has started over half the games the Cubs have played in this season. What’s more, Olt has the eighth most at bats and plate appearances on the Cubs roster.
If you are like me, that surprises you. I was under the impression that he was not being used that much, that the Cubs were risking ruining him and his development by not being played enough to truly see what he could be capable of. However, that is not really the case as he is getting plenty of at bats. He just has never fully taken advantage of the situation to make his mark and keep him as the every day starter.
Of course, Rick Renteria could be playing him more than he is. That is something no one can dispute. There have been 14 games this year when he did not start, five of which he did not get a plate appearance at all. He could have started each an every one of those games, giving him even more at bats than he already has been given, taking him up to possibly the top three in at bats and plate appearances.
We may have a pretty good idea of what the Cubs have in Olt with the playing time he has been given. At the same time the Cubs may just be scratch in the surface of his ability. We have all seen the power Olt possesses, and that has us craving more time for him at the plate. We have also seen him struggle to do much at the plate if he is not hitting a home run. His batting average is still below the Mendoza line after all. If he can figure out a way to make more consistent contact, the Cubs might well have a legitimate force at third base (or possibly a corner outfield position) for a long time.
Should the Cubs be playing Olt more to give him more time and a better chance to develop? I would be all for that. At the same time though, he is getting plenty of playing time to show everyone just what he is. Perhaps he is simply another three outcome player, or a two outcome player.
Perhaps he is just home run or bust.