Archive | Mike Olt

Cubs Opening Night Lineup Speculation; Maddon Keeps Us Guessing

Posted on 02 April 2015 by Bob

Just three days out from Opening Day and the suspense is killing us! To pass  the time until meaningful games commence let’s speculate on the Cubs Opening Day lineup vs. Adam Wainwright and the St. Louis Cardinals.

OUR PICKS

Dexter Fowler

1. CF Dexter Fowler: The lead-off position should be the easiest pick as Fowler was brought in specifically by the Cubs to get on base early and set the table for the power hitters in the 3 – 5 positions. Fowler enters 2015 with a career .366 On Base Percentage meaning the Cubs have upgraded at the position and he’s a switch-hitter to boot, giving the Cubs added flexibility at the top of the order.

2. RF Jorge Soler: While some sites project him in the cleanup spot, it’s hard to see Maddon starting a rookie there when early on he will be much more valuable in the 2-hole with his aggressive approach, getting on base so the Cubs proven All-Stars behind him can drive him in. By all accounts, Soler can play and some believe he will battle teammate Kris Bryant for  Rookie of the Year honors. If he gets hot early, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him move into the heart of the lineup but for now he starts at #2.

3. 1B Anthony Rizzo: He will be the glue that holds this thing together. As he matures, it’s not out of the question to see him put up even bigger numbers than his All-Star campaign last year. With formidable hitters in front of him expect to see his RBI’s increase from 78 a year ago and if he can duplicate his Top Ten performance in Home Runs in 2014, these Cubs could make some noise.

Starlin-Castro

4. SS Starlin Castro: Would love to see him continue on an upward trajectory from last year and with Addison Russell waiting in the wings it will be imperative for Starlin to have a big year not only for himself but for the team as well. After his first healthy spring in years, expect Castro to get off to a good start.

5. C Miguel Montero: Another Cubs’ off-season acquisition and another 2014 All-Star in the heart of the order. Montero provides an upgrade not only with his catching ability but his bat is also an upgrade over Wellington Castillo who may be moved early on this season. The catch is if David Ross, Opening Day Starter Jon Lester’s former battery mate in Boston, is called upon to catch the lefty Sunday night. If so, Ross, who has a much weaker bat, would be bumped further down the lineup.

Here’s where it gets tricky given the injuries and the versatility of Arismendy Alcantara and Maddon’s penchant for tinkering with batting order. Given his hot spring we’ll give the nod to:

6. LF Matt Szczcur: Batted .348 with 5 home runs and 9 RBI’s in 20 Cactus league games. With injuries to Chris Denorfia and Chris Coghlan, perhaps Maddon will ride the hot hand in giving Szczur a shot.

Mike Olt

7. 3B Mike Olt: What a difference a year makes as Olt enters Opening Day as the Cubs starting third basemen for the second straight year. He had an excellent spring and appears to have regained the confidence he lacked throughout last season. Many believe he is just a placeholder until Bryant is called up but if Olt can ride his warm spring into a hot summer perhaps all the time Bryant has spent in the outfield as of late will not be for naught.

8. P Jon Lester: Call it the Maddon Effect but it’s this line of thinking that got him hired in the first place. Maybe he holds off on this for Opening Day but my guess is you will see Jon Lester batting 8th enabling Maddon to squeeze the most out of the top of the order.

9. 2B Arismendy Alcantara: Some view Tommy La Stella as a viable option at second base but for now Alcantara seems like the safer choice for opening day given his versatility and the power he displayed last year slugging 10 home runs in 70 games. The fact that he could be moved around the infield or outfield tells me he will find his way on to this Opening Day roster and will be a vital cog in the Cubs machine as a jack of all trades this year.

So there you have it folks, our guess as to what you will likely see as the Cubs begin the season Sunday night. Agree or disagree, the Cubs have talent and options this year, two things that have been scarce in these parts for the last five years. It will be interesting to watch this take shape as the year unfolds. Here’s to hoping for some consistency, nice surprises, and a fun to watch team that can manufacture some runs.

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Lester Sharp Again as Cubs Get 1st “W”

Posted on 12 March 2015 by Bob

Jon Lester looked every bit the player the Cubs had hoped for in his second Cactus League start throwing first-pitch strikes to ten of the eleven batters to step into the box and demonstrating the laser-sharp focus this team needs to start the year out right. “If you’re out there pumping strikes, especially that first pitch, guys are already going up there either on the defense or up there hacking,” Lester said, as he aims to dominate the strike zone early and often. His aggressiveness paid off in the Cubs picking up their first win of this young season.

Jon Lester

Miguel Montero caught Lester for the first time on Wednesday as the duo gave up only three hits and struck out two with no runs allowed through three innings setting the tone for the 4-3 win over Zack Greinke, Yasiel Puig and the Dodgers. Mike Olt has been the breakout star of spring training thus far with a .400 batting average after collecting two more hits.

With the monkey off their back, the Cubs can now turn to playing sound fundamental baseball and doing the little things right to make Manager Joe Maddon happy. “Physical mistakes are fine,” Maddon said “The mental mistakes will kill you. Physical mistakes are part of this game. Mental mistakes have no part in this game.”

The learning process continues as coaches and players get a feel for one another. It’s preferable to take their lumps now and be ready to go come April 5th. There are glimmers, here and there, but we still haven’t seen the Cubs put it all together. Keeping up their focus will go a long ways toward helping this team gel and hopefully not go so long before earning their next win.

Mike Olt

Next Up: Jason Hammel makes his second start against Sean Newcomb and the LA Angels today at 2:10PM CST.

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Young Cubs Come to Play in Spring League Debut

Posted on 06 March 2015 by Bob

Yesterday’s Cactus League debut was a good one for Cubs’ youngsters Mike Olt, Javier Baez, and Kyle Schwarber with at-bats producing a strike-out, a fly-out, and grand slam respectively. The two former AB’s don’t sound so great taken out of context but situationally they show the growth required for these young Cubs to succeed at the Major League level. The grand slam is the cherry on top.

Mike Olt

Mike Olt’s strikeout came in his second at-bat(His first being a 2 run homer by the way). He worked the count to three and two before fouling off several pitches and eventually striking out on a change-up. At face value this sequence might not seem great but seeing a high number of pitches and battling pitchers deep into counts is precisely the medicine Cubs’ hitters need to improve their offense from a year ago. Especially from Olt; He of 100 strikeouts last season and demotion to the minors to work on his game. Olt needs to exhibit this type of plate discipline if he is to live up to the potential which brought him over in the Matt Garza trade.

Javier Baez

Baez, who has worked on shortening his swing this offseason, produced what appears on paper as an insignificant fly-out after two missed strikes but putting the ball in play is the preferred outcome over strike three in the catcher’s mitt. A scene Baez witnessed more than enough times last season despite not even being called up until August. These may seem like little things but it is the little things the Cubs need to improve upon in order to take the leap to playoff contender. Baez still seems like a wild card at this point. I don’t know how he fits into the Cubs’ future plans with a slog of middle infielders already in the Cubs system, but improving his plate discipline and getting on base will go a long way towards proving he can be the Cubs future at second base.

Kyle Schwarber

As for Schwarber, his Grand slam in his first spring at-bat is a welcome introduction; “Load ‘em up and drive em in” as they say. Getting on base is key but then you have to drive them in. Schwarber seems intent on doing just so even drawing comparisons to Kris Bryant within the Cubs organization. It’s only the first day but signs of improvement abound.

NEXT UP:
The Cubs take on Cincinnati today, which as of this moment is tied 0-0 in the 5th.
Saturday and Sunday, the Cubs take on the Rockies and Rangers respectively.

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