Photo courtesy of CBSSports.com
In a normal situation, I do not believe either of the call ups would have been warranted. But being in the situation the Cubs are in, bringing both players up at this time seems appropriate.
Josh Vitters has spent only one season at AAA-Iowa, and while looking at his decent hitting numbers in his one season in Triple-A ball—HR, RBI, Avg., OBP, Slugging and OPS—he may have appeared to be ready for the call up and the more promising prospect of the two. However, his minor league career fielding numbers would suggest otherwise.
Labeling Josh Vitters as “error prone” at third base would not be…well…erroneous. Throughout his minor league career at third, Vitters has showcased—or rather to coin a phrase low-cased—his fielding to be subpar.
His highest fielding percentage at third base—factored using the formula Putouts + Assists / (Putouts + Assists + Errors) in case you like to do the math as well (remember your order of operations)—was a mere .922 in 42-games of A+ ball in 2009.
In playing 95 games at third this season at Iowa, Josh Vitters amassed 21 errors out of only 240 chances—that is one error every 11.43 chances—and managed a putrid .913 fielding percentage.
Since being called up, Vitters has made five starts at third base, making one error in 15 chances. He has also made what ESPNChicago.com’s Doug Padilla calls “a pair of spectacular diving plays, one to his left and one to his right…”
Nevertheless, if the Cubs were an American League franchise, then bringing him up based on his offensive numbers alone would make since because he could hit at DH. However, they are not in the AL, and Vitters will have to play defense.
Maybe the Cubs believe his fielding will not improve much no matter how long he stays in the minors, and this is as best a time as any to call him up so he can get all the MLB experience manning the hot corner he can, at a point when winning is not of the most importance.
“Vitters has to develop defensively and a lot of this is the development at the big league level,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “We now get to see what we have first-hand and go from there during the winter.”