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45 Prospects in 45 Days: Chicago’s Mike Olt

Photo Credit: Eric Brynsvold
Photo Credit: Eric Brynsvold

Over the next 45 days the staff here at The Fix will profile and predict the fantasy fates of prospects that could – should, in some cases – be closely monitored on the waiver wire or even in the draft room.

For the projection portion of the article, we will try our best to give you projections from all three major projection systems. Those projection systems are: ZiPS, Steamer, and Oliver. Oliver varies from the other two by projecting what a player would accomplish over 600 PA. Obviously, most prospects won’t reach 600 PA, due to various reasons. It can help to pay more attention to the rate stats that are included in order to get a clearer idea of what you’re dealing with in a particular player.

Profile

Mike Olt was once part of the Texas Rangers organization and a name you likely heard before. Whether you remember the name from prospect chatter or trade rumor whispers, it feels as if Olt has been around forever. Well, part of that is because it is true, at least in prospect circles. The third baseman will be turning 26 later this season and has yet to receive significant at-bats in the bigs.

However, that could change in 2014. Last season, Olt was traded from the Rangers to the Chicago Cubs in the Matt Garza deal. The Cubs have infield options in Kris Bryant and Javier Baez, but Olt will likely get the first shot at the hot corner and with a strong performance, could force Bryant to the outfield and Baez to second base (where he has been working out currently). But before we can make those plans, the righty needs to overcome his 2013 struggles where he hit .201/.303/.381 with 15 homers in 432 plate appearances. He struck out 30.6% of the time.

Much of Olt’s poor 2013 performance has been tied to reoccurring vision problems (he also suffered a concussion). He tried to play through it, but it eventually cost him some time, as he tried to find a solution to the issue. Olt believes his vision was the main reason for his weak production in 2013. He also claims the visions problems are no more, which if true, should give his prospect stock a nice bounce back upward.

During his minor league career, Olt displayed plus power, the ability to take a walk, and achieve plenty of whiffs. He is also considered a solid defensive third baseman. If he could recapture his power stroke and make some strides and translate his walk-rate to the major league level, the Cubs could have themselves a nice player.

Pundits

Mike Olt did not appear on any of the top-100 prospect lists this season, and with good reason. However, he did appear on the 2013 lists, and if you want to blame injury and the vision issue for his performance, these 2013 rankings may give you a better sense of who Olt could be as a player.

2013:
Baseball America: 22
Keith Law: 71
MLB.com: 22
Marc Hulet: 47
Baseball Prospectus: 30

I guess we can chalk one up to Keith Law here. Marc Hulet also was more cautious than the rest of the bunch. Of course, Olt can still become a major league regular with plus power, above average defense, and an above average walk-rate, so it all depends on how you perceive these lists.

In February of 2013, Marc Hulet had Mike Olt as the Rangers number two prospect in their farm system. Here is what he had to say about Olt at the time:

Olt isn’t afraid to take walks but he strikes out a lot, which will drag down his batting average. He struggles with pitch recognition at times and his swing can get long. He has a chance to be a .260 hitter with 20 home runs and above-average defense at third base.

Minor League Production

Year Team G PA HR SB BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG
2010 Texas (A-) 69 310 9 6 12.9% 24.8% .175 .378 .293 .390 .468
2011 (R) 27 127 13 0 11.8% 28.3% .415 .400 .349 .433 .764
2011 (R) 4 15 1 0 6.7% 33.3% .214 .250 .214 .267 .429
2011 (A+) 69 292 14 0 16.4% 24.0% .238 .314 .267 .387 .504
2012 (AA) 95 420 28 4 14.5% 24.0% .291 .327 .288 .398 .579
2013 (AA) 3 12 1 0 0.0% 50.0% .417 .600 .333 .333 .750
2013 (AAA) 65 268 11 0 13.1% 33.2% .209 .288 .213 .317 .422
2013 Cubs (AAA) 39 152 3 0 13.2% 24.3% .107 .207 .168 .276 .275

Even when Olt was going good, he was striking out a ton. He managed some pretty okay averages, but striking out 25-28% of the time, won’t help keep your batting average above .250-.255 without some BABIP help, a low IFFB%, and a lot of HRs (think Chris Davis). Olt has the ability to draw a walk, but will that high walk-rate transfer over to the major league level?

Projections

System G PA HR R RBI SB CS BB% K% BABIP AVG OBP SLG ISO
Steamer 26 106 3 11 11 1 0 10.1% 28.3% .279 .218 .301 .378 .159
ZiPS 112 461 15 46 46 3 1 10.0% 30.8% .293 .220 .299 .383 .163
Oliver 143 600 21 62 70 2 1 10.7% 36.0% .291 .202 .290 .370 .168

For the most part, the projection systems seem to agree on Olt’s power. They also happen to agree just about everywhere else, and it isn’t pretty.

Prediction

Assuming Olt gets the everyday third base job for the Cubs, I think he can force Kris Bryant to the outfield and hold down the fort in 2014. According to some scouting reports, Bryant needs work at third base and if his bat is ahead of his defense, moving him to a corner outfield spot may help speed up his progress. Javier Baez is already working out at second base, as the Cubs seem committed to Stalin Castro at shortstop and either Olt or Bryant at third base. No matter how this game of musical positions gets settled, the Cubs could have a lethal infield much sooner rather than later.

As for Olt, I have a more positive take on his immediate future than the projection systems do, and have him ranked in the low-20s for my third base rankings. I blame last season mostly on the injuries and the vision problems. He has strikeout issues, but he still has plenty of power and if he can get on base enough, should be an asset to the Cubs and your fantasy team.

A .240 batting average and a .320 on-base percentage with anywhere from 18-24 home runs seems like a real possibility this season. Olt certainly has the potential to achieve such a line, so he should be rostered in deeper formats (i.e.15-teamers), as well as NL-only leagues, and be watched carefully from the waiver wire in more shallow ones. The power is real and in today’s game, HR hitters should always be considered.

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2 Comments

  1. March 24, 2014 at 8:52 pm — Reply

    Nice work, Rich. Just grabbed him in a deep 12-teamer as a backup CI. Looking forward to seeing what he can do. Is Adam Dunn a similar type player–in a light version here?

    • March 24, 2014 at 9:12 pm — Reply

      Thanks Joseph.

      Someone on Twitter mentioned Pedro Alvarez. I don’t think Olt has the power of either he or Dunn. I think something like .240 with 24-28 homers annually isn’t absurd. Maybe he can get close to the 24 homers this season (maybe with an even more painful BA?).

      Considering his age, flaws, and the unwillingness to completely ignore his dreadful season last year, I think that is the furthest I’d go. Maybe his career fluctuates between .240-.260 and between 24-28 homers? Can he reach the low-30s for dingers? With some luck I guess. So tough to say.

      I think if you get .235 with 18 homers with decent counting stats, you would consider that a success in very deep leagues, NL-only leagues. Maybe he shows obvious splits that will allow you to take advantage of a platoon type situation (RHH though)?

      He could also end up being a total bust.

      But I think your pick-up was a wise one (assuming you dropped dead weight) considering your league.

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