The Chicago Cubs recently added third base prospect Josh Vitters to their 40-man roster. The former third overall pick from the 2007 MLB amateur draft could finally be looking to make an impact on the team that selected him, and with how things are looking, he very much could be getting that chance.
Considering the Cubs lack of depth at third base, especially with the departure of veteran Aramis Ramirez; so the Cubs may be best to go with Vitters. Looking at the rest of the available players, Vitters presents just as much of a risk, but at least he comes with much upside.
It doesn't seem like the Cubs are going to shell out the money for aging veterans like Miguel Tejada, Casey Blake or Andy LaRoche. All of those guys are risks, and if the Cubs are not looking to spend, then they might as well get the future on the field now.
The Cubs also don't seem to be looking to make deals for players like David Wright, as Theo Epstein will be looking to get the Cubs' farm system back on track. That is why he has made almost every player on the team available. That being said, the Cubs will likely be looking to work with what they have, or what they can get for cheap.
Vitters has never been brought up to the major league level, and his numbers have not been all that impressive in Double-A. At Tennessee in 2011, Vitters batted .284 with 14 home runs, 81 RBI and only four stolen bases. His numbers did improve from a season ago, and an on-base percentage of .322 is not all that bad.
Vitters just isn't the ideal third baseman when it comes to hitting. He has never proven to be able to hit for power; so if the Cubs decide he is the guy, they will need to find a player to fill that void in the outfield or at first or second base. The Cubs could look to move players like Marlon Byrd or Geovany Soto to acquire the talent needed in their other positions to fill the void, but the direction of this club remains to be seen.
After four years of minor league ball, it is time to get Vitters up in the majors and see what he can do. Vitters has not looked overwhelmingly impressive at this point, and it is likely still questionable if he is ready to play at the major league level.
Last season Vitters had 21 errors at third base. That number is not anything Cubs fans want to hear when wondering what the his potential will be; but it could be something he improves on. If the numbers stay like that, an infield made up of Vitters and Starlin Castro would be scary for the Cubs. Every fan would be holding their breath when the ball was hit to that side of the field.
It is a risk that the Cubs are going to have to possibly take, but they can only wait so much longer to see how Vitters will pan out. He is only 22 years old, but by this time he should be nearly fully developed. Who knows? He could light things up. And if he doesn't work, the Cubs will know that he is not their answer and they will be able to look for a better piece for the future.
Cubs new president Epstein and his team of general manager Jed Hoyer and Jason Mcleod, who will be in charge of scouting and player development, will be looking to improve this team mostly through the farm. They will need to know what their current prospects look like, and Vitters is one of the more important guys.
Of course the Cubs are going to have to wait and see how things go this year at spring training. Second baseman Darwin Barney entered last spring in a similar situation, but in the end he outright won the position over Jeff Baker and Blake Dewitt. The level of competition is likely going to be the same for Vitters, so he has a real chance of making this club's opening day lineup, if not the roster.
If Vitters doesn't work out, the Cubs could always consider moving star shortstop Castro to third base. That would be a desperate move, but the Cubs could ultimately feel the need to do so while moving around other players. If it comes down to the situation at the end of this offseason where it is between Castro or Vitters, the Cubs would be best to try out Vitters before moving their best player.
Vitters will be given his chance—sometime in 2012. Whether they give him some time in Triple-A or now, the Cubs should know where they stand on their future with Vitters soon.
Jeff Chase is from Chicago and is an undergrad at Arizona State University. He currently is interning with B/R and is in process of becoming a Featured Columnist for Arizona State football.
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