The Chicago Cubs are having a dream season in 2015. After a half decade of losing, the Cubbies are showing what the fruits of a total rebuild can look like as they sit at 74-56 and in control of the second Wild Card by 5.5 games. The Cubs recently made an acquisition to bolster their roster, bringing in outfielder Austin Jackson to help solidify the bench for their run to the playoffs. To make room for Jackson, the Cubs designated third baseman Mike Olt for assignment.
Our own Milwaukee Brewers, as we well know, are on quite a different trajectory than the Cubs. After a decade of relevance, the Brewers find themselves now in the beginning stages of a rebuild, having shipped off six players from their major league roster this season via trade. Now sitting at 55-75, the Brewers are using the rest of this season partly to get a look at some fringe players to see if they can stick at the big league level. Given the hole at third base in the Brewers system, adding Mike Olt to the fold should be a no-brainer.
Olt was drafted with the 49th overall pick by the Rangers in 2010 out of UConn, and began shooting up prospects charts soon after. Olt was ranked as the game’s 22th best prospect following the 2012 season, a year in which he hit 28 home runs and posted a .977 OPS in 95 games in AA before making his major league debut towards the end of the season. Olt was traded to the Cubs the following season as the headliner of the package for Matt Garza.
Since being dealt to Chicago, however, Mike Olt has seen his star fade. He posted just a .684 OPS between the Cubs and Rangers minor league affiliates in 2013 thanks in part to a vision issue that cost him time and production early in the season, and he failed to crack the big leagues at all that year. Olt finally earned his first extended big league look in 2014 and failed to impress. Olt managed just a .160/.284/.356 slash in 89 games, and though he slugged 12 home runs, he also struck out in 38.8% of his plate appearances. Olt began the season as the Cubs’ starting 3B to keep the seat warm for uber-prospect Kris Bryant, but played in only six games before breaking his right wrist. Passed on the organizational depth chart, Olt has been toiling in the minors since returning from injury, posting a .793 OPS in AAA, and the contending Cubs had to make the tough decision to remove him from their 40 man roster.
Milwaukee, on the other hand, should be looking to welcome Olt with open arms. The Brewers have little to no depth at third base in the upper levels of the minor leagues, and are still looking for a clear replacement for Aramis Ramirez. Olt just turned 27 and still has youth on his side, and comes with an additional five years of club control. The righty swinger is rated as an above average defender with a strong arm at the hot corner, something that Milwaukee’s ground ballin’ pitching staff would no doubt appreciate. Olt has consistently shown his plus power, but his hit tool has always been the biggest question in his game. He’s struck out in nearly 27% of his minor league plate appearances, though he has also shown a terrific ability for drawing walks (12.8% career minor league walk rate, 9.6% MLB walk rate). Lone Star Ball‘s write up on Olt back in 2013 said that he could enjoy a long, productive career if he can manage to hit .240 while maintaining his walk rate and power stroke, and that remains true with the offensive climate in today’s game.
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The Brewers have been employing a tandem of Elian Herrera and Hernan Perez at third base since trading Aramis Ramirez to the Pirates, though neither of those players look like a long term solution. Herrera is already 30 and has been outrighted to AAA twice this calendar year. Perez doesn’t possess the power that is usually desired from a corner infielder, and projects as more of a utility infielder than an everyday player. Milwaukee does have Matt Dominguez in AAA, but he managed only a .586 OPS and was below replacement level in his last full season in the majors back in 2014.
With no clear cut short or long term answer at third base and space(s) available on the 40 man roster, the Milwaukee Brewers should strongly consider bringing Mike Olt into the fold. These are the types of moves that rebuilding clubs have the luxury of being able to make. Given their poor record, the Brewers have high priority on the waiver wire, giving them a strong chance to have the opportunity to claim Olt from Chicago. He is a former top 50 prospect with a strong glove and 20+ home run power. What reason does Milwaukee have NOT to claim Mike Olt and give him a shot to take over the third base job?