Ever since Aramis Ramirez left the Chicago Cubs, the Cubs have been searching for an every day third baseman. Over the past few seasons the Cubs have used several different players on the hot corner, but there was never a large chance of one of them turning into the starter of the future. With the recent acquisitions of Mike Olt and Kris Bryant many believe that third base job will fall into their hands. However, both of them still seem far away from being the opening day starter and because of this Luis Valbuena will win the job.
Valbuena is entering his third year with the Cubs organization, so out of the three potential third baseman he knows the Cubs system the best. Although his batting average (.218) last year was relatively poor, he posted a .331 on base percentage last season. Of the three has the most big league experience, so he knows the grueling demands that a 162 game season has to offer. With spring training right around the corner, Valbuena seems to be the favorite to land the opening day job primarily because the Cubs already know how he will perform in the majors. Obviously, Valbuena is more like a bandaid for third base, just plugging up the whole until Mike Olt or Kris Bryant are ready to take over. No body expected Valbuena to take the reins of the third base job for the rest of his career, but he has actually filled in relatively nicely. He is dependable in the field and knows how to get on base, and because of this he will most likely be starting on opening day.
Many Cubs fans might be a little upset by this analysis because they are ready to turn the page on Luis Valbuena and had the third base job over to Mike Olt. Unfortunately, it is not that easy. Olt had extreme vision issues last season, and it remains to be seen if those have been corrected. He once was one of the top prospects in the Texas Rangers system, but his eye problems were one of the main reasons he was traded to the Cubs in the Matt Garza deal. Once joining the Cubs AAA Iowa affiliate he hit only .168, leaving many wondering if he would ever reach his full potential. Olt believes that his eye visions are behind him, and if he shows the Cubs this spring training that he has returned to his healthy form, he might beat out Valbuena for the starting role.
Most people believe that Kris Bryant will be the Cubs starting third baseman for many years to come, but he still lacks the experience to handle that role yet. Despite being 22 years old, he has only played 31 games in the Cubs minor league system. Bryant dominated pitchers during his college career at the University of San Diego and because of this the Cubs selected him 2nd overall in last years draft. Bryant will be joining the Cubs for spring training, but he is a long shot to make the opening day roster. No body really gives the Cubs much chance to compete in 2014, so they will not rush Bryant to the major leagues, instead they will give him another year to develop in the minors. However, depending on how he performs this year, Bryant may find his way up to the North Side at some point this season. I expect to see Bryant manning the hot corner after the September call up, and this will give Cubs fans a chance to see what the future may have in store for them.
Luis Valbuena has done an adequate job playing third base for the Cubs, but he was never believed to be the long term answer. He is now the lame duck at third, just providing a patch until Olt and Bryant takeover. This spring will be extremely important for Mike Olt so he can prove to the Cubs that he is playing like the top prospect he once was. Kris Bryant is still relatively young and needs some more experience prior to taking over the starting major league job. Hopefully, Olt can return to his old ways and Bryant can maintain his extraordinary hitting. In order to build a team that competes for the world series year in and year out, Olt and Bryant will be core pieces that the Cubs will rely on. The two can and will be major factors on the North Side for the rest of their careers.