Mike Olt played his way onto the Opening Day roster a year ago with a decent spring in which he dealt with shoulder issues that limited his time at third base. But when the games counted, Olt struggled at the plate. When he made contact, the ball seemingly went a mile, or at least for extra bases. More than half of Olt’s hits in the majors last year were either doubles or home runs.
The Cubs did the right thing with Olt and finally sent him down to Triple-A Iowa. Olt had the right mindset about going down to the minors. Olt made adjustments with Brian Harper and more importantly he received playing time in which to implement the changes.
Olt produced at Iowa in 28 games and batted .302/.348/.585 with nine doubles and seven home runs for a .933 OPS. But those numbers were put up in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League and the strikeouts were still high (33 strikeouts in 115 plate appearances).
Mike Olt returned to the Cubs in September and the adjustments he made produced results. In 17 games, Olt batted .263/.370/.368 with four doubles, six walks and 16 strikeouts in 44 at bats (10-for-38). While the ball didn’t leave the park, there was more contact over a short period of time.
Olt spent the winter healthy and preparing for the season, not rehabbing an injury or dealing with the vision and concussion issues that derailed his career.
This spring’s numbers look similar to the ones he put up a year ago, but Olt has not looked like the same hitter. Last spring Olt was 16-for-58 in 19 games with two doubles, four walks and 19 strikeouts (.276/.317/.569/.886), in eight games this year Olt is 5-for-18 with two home runs, five walks and seven strikeouts (.278/.435/.611/1.046).
Mike Olt appears to be a much more confident hitter, one that has a plan when he steps into the box.
Jesse Rogers recently caught up with Mike Olt and asked him about the changes he made to his swing and how he’s felt at the plate this spring.
“I really do think that my at bats have changed a lot from last year to this year. I am finally working the counts a lot better. I’m not afraid to get two strikes on me. I feel like every at bat I’ve tried to get to 3-2, somewhere close to that. I’ve had some good battles.”
“It’s obviously a game of adjustments. When you’re not doing well you have to make an adjustment, created a lot of bad habits the last couple of years,” Olt said. “I was just really happy with the way I finished it going to Triple-A and shortening my swing, kind of lengthening my stance out just so its … everything is a little bit easier, a little bit simpler and just trying to get back to, get that feeling back of back in the day when I was really feeling good and I think I’m back to that spot.”
Mike Olt admitted he was cheating at the plate a little last year and wasn’t taking the same approach that he had in the past.
“It’s funny, I talked to my parents back home. My dad really knows my swing. Even after a homer game or something along those lines we would talk to each other and he knew.”
“He was like, ‘What about that curveball that you let go?’ Just something I never let go, never let curveballs go that are good pitches to hit,” Olt said. “But we never really went about it because obviously you try to keep going with, try to keep going with what you’re doing with what’s going then. The fact that I was able now to make an adjustment to my swing and I feel like I can get to any pitch at any time, that’s what I wanted.”
If Olt can stay on track through Spring Training as he faces pitchers that are preparing for the season and not just getting their work in, Olt will be on the Cubs’ first roster of the season. Olt is expected to see time in the outfield over the remainder of the Cactus League schedule and right now he’s the only viable option to backup Anthony Rizzo at first base when the season starts.
Many think Mike Olt will be at third base when the Cubs open the season against the Cardinals. And Olt might have one last chance to show he can hit big league pitching. If he continues to produce results with the adjustments he made last year and the confidence he’s shown this spring, regardless when Kris Bryant is called up, Olt could give Joe Maddon another power bat that can play multiple positions, drive in runs and help the Cubs win ballgames.