This series will look at prospects and show whether they are worth an investment on your fantasy team. Every owner knows that the secret to a strong minors system is knowing who to throw away and knowing who to keep. Each player featured in this series will be given one of the following recommendations:
- Hold ’em : If you own this prospect, hang tight. While times may seem rough, the talent is worth holding onto.
- Fold ’em : If you own this prospect, now is the time to sell while they may still have some name value.
- Walk Away: This prospect is not worth paying attention to in your league.
- Run: Get to the waiver wire immediately and put a claim in for this prospect.
The first prospect I’ll look at is Mike Olt.
The Rangers drafted Mike Olt with the 49th overall pick in 2010. He signed right away and even managed to hit 9 home runs in less than 300 at bats for low A that season. In 2011, Olt hit .264/.381/.500 showing great power, slick fielding to go with a very good walk rate. Heading into 2012, Olt started hitting the Top Prospect Lists: #43 for Baseball America and #45 for Baseball Prospectus.
The 2012 season was Olt’s real breakthrough hitting .288/.398/.579 while earning not only a Futures Game selection but a trip to the big leagues. The sky was the limit as his power, on base skills and defensive ability had him on the cusp of stardom. Entering the 2013 season he was ranked as the #22 prospect by Baseball America and the #30 prospect by Baseball Prospectus.
In 2013, not only did Olt’s status as a future all-star come into question, but also his ability to hit at all in the major leagues. He struggled in AAA for Texas to the tune of hitting .139 through his first 20 games. He was bothered by blurry vision as a result of a concussion he suffered in winter ball. Olt was prescribed eye drops and saw only a small bounce back before he was traded with 3 other players to the Cubs for Matt Garza. In Iowa for the Cubs in 131 AB, Olt hit .168/.276/.275.
No longer on anyone’s Top 100 Prospect List heading into 2014, Mike Olt finds himself in the hunt for the starting 3B position in Chicago.
Olt’s vision problems are behind him, but a sore shoulder has prevented him from playing any 3rd base in spring training games. What it hasn’t prevented is the power; last Wednesday Olt hit 2 home runs with the first one traveling 430 feet. Last night he added his 4th home run of the spring in just 31 at bats, and he is scheduled to finally see some time at 3rd base this week.
Proving his health at 3B and getting enough games in there is critical if Olt is going to win the job away from Donnie Murphy and Luis Valbuena. Looming ahead is uber-prospect Kris Bryant whom the Cubs sent to minor league camp last week. Neither Murphy or Valbuena are solid options at third and this small window of opportunity is there for Olt to take.
While Olt hasn’t shown any success at AAA or in the big leagues to this point, he’s showing that he can see the ball well again at the plate. His defense was never a question so as long as he can play 3B through the end of spring training, he’s got a real shot at being the Cubs opening day third baseman. Olt will always strikeout a fair bit and he’ll likely get exposed at the major league level like most prospects with his K rate. Providing his shoulder is healthy, his defense may keep him in the lineup even as his batting average may be miserable. The Cubs aren’t going anywhere in 2014, and it’s in their best interest to see what a healthy Olt can do at 3B for a full season.
For fantasy purposes, Olt’s stock has gone up dramatically in spring training, at least as far as anyone can really improve their stock there. He’s healthy, seeing the ball well and showing the power that made him one of baseball’s best and most coveted prospects. I really hope he succeeds (and I don’t own him anywhere).
Recommendation: HOLD ‘EM. While Olt may not break camp as the Cubs starting third baseman, nor put up a great batting average right away, this is a once highly touted prospect. If his vision issues are truly behind him, he has the potential to live up to some of the power promise he had just one year ago. The Cubs have many great prospects coming through the pipe and it will serve them well to know exactly what it is they have in Olt.
Other Prospect Notes:
Julio Urias SP, LAD: 17-year-old LHP Urias pitched one inning against San Diego on Saturday, retiring all three batters he faced. He struck out Will Venable and Yonder Alonso. As a 16-year-old in 2013, Urias struck out 67 batters in 54 innings in A ball. Prospect Ranking in 2014: #34. Recommendation: Run
Yordano Ventura SP, KC: With his insane spring numbers; 15.1IP 15K with just 3ER allowed, Ventura has secured a spot in the Royals rotation. He throws 100+ MPH to go with a change and curve. He gets a ton of ground balls and could very well be the next big thing as far as starting pitchers go. Prospect Rankings in 2014: #37. Recommendation: Run (faster)
Rafael Montero SP, NYM: Despite his success in spring training, 23-year-old RHP Montero has been reassigned to minor league camp, just two days after the club considered moving him to the bullpen. Montero pitched 9 innings, giving up just 6 hits, 2 walks and 3 earned runs. Hopefully there is no more bullpen talk for this fine young arm. Prospect Ranking in 2014: #78. Recommendation: Hold ‘Em
Nick Williams OF, TEX: 20-year-old outfielder showed his excellent power with 2 home runs in his first spring game. Destined to start the year in AA, Williams is my favorite among the Rangers system to dramatically improve his stock in 2014. In that first spring training game he provided a glimpse of his talent. Prospect Ranking in 2014: #64. Recommendation: Run
If you’re gonna play the game, boy, ya gotta learn to play it right.