It should come as no surprise that recently acquired Chicago Cubs infield prospect Mike Olt is already looking forward to next season. Coming off a rough 2012, in which he was not only traded but battled vision problems, Olt sees the potential opportunity in front of him and is going to do everything he can to seize it.
The Cubs received a nice haul for pitcher Matt Garza and Olt was the centerpiece. In 2012, he hit .288 with 28 home runs and a .398 OBP in just 95 games.
Olt, however, is a career .258 hitter in the minors and coming off the worst season of his young career, albeit due to vision problems. He will be in his first full season with the Cubs along with a new coaching staff that will be looking to get off to the best start possible in 2014.
That start should not be with Olt at third base.
The Cubs would be wise to follow the Anthony Rizzo trajectory to the majors, one that saw him dominate opponents for the entire 2012 season. He took a step backward in 2013, known as a sophomore slump, but the Cubs don't appear too worried and will likely make it a priority to get him off to a strong start in '14.
Rizzo played 70 games at Triple-A Iowa in 2012 before his call-up, a year after playing 93 games with the Tucson Padres where he hit .331 with 26 home runs. Both Triple-A affiliates are members of the Pacific Coast League, so he faced the same teams and pitchers by and large.
The Cubs gave Rizzo plenty of time to get comfortable with a new organization and to sharpen his skills at the plate before his call-up. That time paid off as he finished the 2012 campaign with a .285 average and 15 home runs in 87 games.
Rizzo was an established and feared Triple-A hitter by the time he left the Pacific Coast League and that's exactly the type of position Olt should be in before his call-up, which will hopefully be his last.
2013 was only Olt's first year in Triple-A, and it was a year to forget. To thrust him into a starting job in The Show in a market anxiously awaiting results would put unnecessarily high expectations on the prospect. Worst-case scenario that pressure would force the Cubs to send him down midseason in hopes he can return at some point with better results.
If the Cubs can find a Bryan LaHair type to fill in at third base, whether it be an internal option or a free-agent addition like Jeff Baker, it would give Olt the space and time to reestablish his swing which caught the eye of scouts and executives in both leagues.
Donnie Murphy filled in admirably at third base last season while Luis Valbuena was hurt. He would be just as capable as someone like Baker. Murphy, who can play second, third and short, finished 2013 with a .255 average and 11 home runs in 46 games.
What's the rush? Give Olt 200-300 at-bats in Triple-A and see if he is legitimately ready to help the Cubs in Chicago.