Levine: Olt Trying To Establish His Role
By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) The footsteps of elite prospect Kris Bryant are approaching Wrigley Field rapidly, as the young third baseman continues his ascension to the major leagues. At this point all that Mike Olt and the other players who are holding down the position can do is try to make an impact now.
Olt has put up some bizarre and impressive numbers with the minimal contact he has made in the first five weeks of the season. Recovering back from a serious concussion and continued arm soreness have limited the former top prospect in the Rangers organization to a part-time role, as Olt has shared third base with Luis Valbuena.
The 25-year-old Olt has six home runs and 16 RBIs,which are solid numbers for a platoon player. The shocking part of the offensive production is that Olt only has 13 hits all season. Having six homers among 13 hits is a strange range of hitting, and he’s batting .184 on the season.
“He is a guy that has some thump in his bat,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. “He has a chance every time he puts the barrel on the baseball to drive the ball. That is obvious from what he has been able to do in his short spurts of playing time. Hopefully this is something he can build on and move forward with.”
Olt was one of four players the Cubs received in exchange for Matt Garza last July. He was the 49th pick by Texas in the 2010 draft and was considered the top player in the Rangers’ minor league system before getting hit in the head and suffering a concussion in winter ball in December 2012.
A wasted 2013 season was mostly spent regaining his full vision from the concussion. A strong spring training this year for Olt won him a shot at full-time status. A high points was was his grand slam against the White Sox on Thursday that was the deciding blow for the Cubs in salvaging the last game of the four-game series.
“I still have a lot to work on,” Olt said. “I am starting to understand myself as a hitter. It was a long month, but I think I am starting to figure out what I have to do to get better.”
Strikeouts have been a problem for Olt, who has fanned 28 times in 76 at-bats so far.
“I feel I got myself out a lot this month,” Olt said. “I did not have a great approach and swung at too many bad pitches. Getting behind in counts, now I have a new approach and will go with that.”
Olt could potentially impact where Bryant ends up on defense if he can hit as high as .250.
“My main concern is getting a good pitch to drive and being more consistent,” Olt said.
At 25, Olt can be as important to the future of the team as any of the highly touted first-round picks progressing through the Cubs’ farm system.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.