The Chicago Cubs got a nice look at their future on Wednesday night, as Mike Olt slugged two home runs and Javier Baez added another in an 8-7 loss to the Seattle Mariners in Peoria, Arizona.
Olt is having a nice spring so far for the Cubs, with three home runs and six RBI to his credit in 21 at-bats. He is also hitting .333, and his OPS of 1.095 is one of the top marks on the team in the early going.
For his part, Baez is also having a really good start to the spring for the North Siders. Playing at three different positions, Baez has shown plenty of versatility with his glove, and with three home runs and two doubles of his own (and an OPS of 1.190), he is really asserting himself into conversations about whether or not he should be on the Cubs’ Opening Day roster at the end of the month.
Manager Rick Reneteria has consistently said that Baez will begin the season with triple-A Iowa this year, and in all honesty, that’s where Baez should start out. The San Diego Padres made the mistake of rushing Anthony Rizzo into the majors a few years back, and it took him a while to get over the funk he experienced once he got to Petco Park. The Cubs, and especially Theo Epstein, have been vocal about not wanting to rush anybody up that isn’t ready, and despite his success so far in Cactus League play, Baez is still a guy the Cubs won’t call up until June or July at the absolute earliest.
As for Olt, he is a completely different matter. The Cubs don’t have an incumbent third baseman to keep Olt from ascending to the MLB roster (whereas Baez would force either Darwin Barney or Starlin Castro into a position change), and as impressive as Luis Valbuena can be in spurts, there is no way that he is a better long-term answer than Olt at the hot corner.
Granted, hitting spring training pitching is something that isn’t all that difficult to do, with most pitchers sticking to fastballs and change-ups rather than trying to get curve balls and breaking balls to bite in the thin desert air, but Olt still is showing that he warrants a serious look as Renteria goes to assemble his Opening Day lineup. The Cubs have little power in that batting order, and Olt would provide some serious thump if he were to hit in the five spot behind Rizzo.
With Kris Bryant still lurking in the wings too (having been assigned to minor league camp on Wednesday), the Cubs have little to lose by gambling that Olt is major league ready. If he comes in and performs, then he will provide a great jolt to a batting order in desperate need of it. If he doesn’t, then the Cubs can just slide Valbuena back into the order and wait for either Baez or Bryant to lay claim to the spot.
Sounds like a win-win for the North Siders, doesn’t it?