Anything left in Cubs Brett Jackson, Josh Vitters?

Anything left in Cubs Brett Jackson, Josh Vitters?

While their skill sets are the polar opposite, Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters always seem to be associated with one another. 

Both are former first-rounders, holdovers from the previous regime. They came through the system together. They were promoted to Chicago on the same August day in 2012.  Heck, their off-the-field relationship draws comparisons to Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly's relationship in Step Brothers, at least I've been told.

One last thing, they were written off together. 

Once considered premier prospects within the organization, the two California boys were promoted prematurely to the bigs, admittedly by the current front office, and struggled mightily during the final seven weeks of 2012.

With nobody expecting anything from either anymore, can they still provide some value for the Cubs in 2014 and beyond?

Let's start with Jackson.  The 25 year-old battled injury issues and ineffectiveness almost all year in 2013, finishing the season in Double-A Tennessee hitting .200 with a .593 OPS in 30 games. 

Moreover, heading into last season, the Cubs, in particular Dale Sveum and James Rowson, completely overhauled his swing.  The results were less than desirable despite the strong work ethic Jackson displayed to adapt to the changes, according to sources within the organization.

With Jackson getting back to his basics and the pressure on him from Cubdom all but gone, he may be able to find his form.  Everyone knows his flaws, in particular his high swing-and-miss rate.  However, scouts still recognize the abundance of tools he carries that made him a first round selection.

He may never be an all-star caliber outfielder which everyone was hoping for, who knows, but it doesn't mean he can't be an effective player on a big league roster who just happened to be a late bloomer. 

Look at Ryan Sweeney, once a highly touted prospect by the White Sox.  It took awhile for Sweeney to find his game at the ML level and he's not anywhere near an all-star level, but his .772 OPS in over 200 plate appearances proved he can provide some help even if it's only at a part-time level.

Vitters also missed a ton of MiLB time last season but in between DL stints, he put together his most effective season to date in a small sample (.295/.380/.511 in 30 games).  As you can see, he even was willing to take a walk here and there. 

The Cubs finally decided that he will never be able to play third base consistently in the bigs, shifting him to the outfield where he likely should have been moved years ago.  At age 24, it's not out of the question that he could fall into some sort of platoon role in the future.

The Cubs insist they "haven't given up on" either Jackson or Vitters, which they have to say, especially since they're still on the 40-man.  They're also not getting any valuable return in a trade at this point.  The best course of action will be to let this season play out and see how they respond. 

Maybe they're worth keeping an eye on, an eye that most people turned away nearly two seasons ago.

@BrianBedo

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  • Nice piece.

  • Brian had a lot of contact with the minor league teams, it is nice to hear some sidebar stuff regarding these two.

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    While both have been a disappointment, I agree that is not out of the realm of possibilites that they could develop into your 4th and 5th OF's for this club going forward. Obviously that outcome would still be a huge letdown after all the hype that surrounded these 2 a few years ago, but it would still be a good outcome.

  • In reply to Richard Madsen:

    Yeah you hate to see first round picks be anything like that, but hey, its not from this regime so it would be gravy.

  • This article is exactly the reason why I disagree with all those Cubs fans who are smugly waiting for our "Big Four" of minor leaguers to join the big club and lead us to the World Series. There are no guarantees in baseball. And selling hope, which is all the Cubs have been doing since Ricketts got here, is unacceptable to me.

    It's likely that NONE of the big four will make it. A home run would be two of them making it as MLB stars.

    When Ricketts starts treating the Chicago Cubs as a major league team in a major market, I'll start watching again. Until then, I have no use for AA or AAA baseball at major league prices.

  • In reply to jordango:

    I think you are underestimating this group of prospects. I have no doubt Baez will be in Majors at least one more of the top 4.

  • In reply to jordango:

    Understand your frustration. However, this big 4 likely has 2 star type players by most expert accounts. I'd bet heavily that 3 of them will be starters. Yet, I don't think this FO is counting on them alone.

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    In reply to jordango:

    I don't think that Vitters or Jackson were ever regarded as highly as Baez or Bryant at the same point in their careers. Yes, they were the top prospects of the Cubs, but the Cubs also had one of the weakest Minor League systems in all of baseball. I think Almora is also more highly regarded than either. Soler may be the closest comp in that he is still so much of an unknown and we are banking more on his potential than any tangible production so far in his short career.

    I think all of us feel your frustration at the team that has been thrown out there the last 2 years and probably this year again, but unfortunatley under the new Collective Bargining Agreement it is not really a viable option to rebuild your farm system without losing a lot. No one who is fan likes seeing their team lose, but that was the hand that Ricketts and Epstein were dealt. I'm just glad to see that they have ignored pressure from everyone to just spend big in Free Agency, which would have been a huge waste of money with so many holes and not enough depth to sustain success. The orginization needed a rebuild from the bottom up and that is what they have stuck to. The good news is that the foundation that they laid is going to start making its way to Wrigley at some point during this season.

  • In reply to Richard Madsen:

    "I don't think that Vitters or Jackson were ever regarded as highly as Baez or Bryant" ... Actually Vitters first year was comparable to Baez. Vitters was picked with the third overall pick in 2007 and then rated as the 43rd best prospect in 2008, which is comparable to Baez who was selected 7th and rated 61st in his first year. From there there prospect paths diverged, with Baez's stock going up the next year and Vitters going down each year subsequently.

    Bryant however was 2nd overall overall last year, but rated much higher than either after his first year. Jackson was selected 31st and ranked the following year as the 74th best prospect and the next year jumped to 38 -- but Baez jumped to Top 10. So both Jackson and Baez were rapidly ascendant prospects after their first year and a half, but Baez much more so.

  • In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    So many top Cubs prospects over time either have had long swings, holes in their swings...plate discipline issues. Think this regime will remedy that.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Here, here. Jason McLeod certainly has the track record. So far they have stayed away from the Hendry approach of only drafting max-throwing power arms and phantom 5-tool players. Can't give them credit for drafting Baezof course, but hopefully he's being developed properly. What I've seen is the great power, but also a bit of a wild swinger at times (even when he connects), but so far he's been superior to the levels of pitching he's faced. We'll see if that continues as he advances. It also explains why some evaluators say he has one of the highest ceilings, but also lowest floors of the current Top 10 prospects. It'll be interesting to watch.

  • In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    Yep, the key with Baez was this regime got their hands on him, hopefuly in time.

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    In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    Yes Vitters was picked high, but again the key point in my statement was "at this point in their careers." Vitters has never come close to putting up numbers like Baez or Bryant have beyond low A ball. Vitters had some decent seasons, but never any close to what Baez and Bryant have done. Vitters has never dominated a level in the minors above low A. Baez has dominated every one with only Triple A to go, and Bryant is already on his way to Double A after breezing through the lower minors in a short amount of time. So other than on draft day, neither Vitters or Jackson have ever been regarded in the same way that Baez or Bryant have been and you could include Soler and Alomora in that.

  • In reply to Richard Madsen:

    My frustration is due to the fact that I live in SoCal and I see up close what the Dodgers are doing. They are rebuilding their farm system AND spending money at the major league level. Most frustrating of all is that their Chicago-based owners are loaded and willing to spend to win. Ricketts is not loaded and not able to spend, apparently. So Chicago is stuck with a mid-market owner in a large market. Why couldn't those guys have bought the Cubs instead of the Dodgers?

    Prospects are just that. Prospects. No guarantees. And a long wait in the process.

  • Thanks Brian- Nobody got closer to Vitters and Jackson when you were the media leader in Peoria. Brett left to live with Vitters this am in Mesa. The new complex is across the street from where Lars, Kalish, Vitters and Brett will house. They are all good pals and the Cubs have put together a great cultural environment this year. Including adding Charlie Cutler and John Baker (both played at Cal with Brett). Brett spent the off season on a unique hitting process. Incorporating his athletics and hitting. Much of the hitting techniques he learned in the AA and AAA years was in an effort to shorten him up. He is back to the swing that made him hit so many oppo HR's and will serve his contact pursuits well. Time will tell. But he is prepared to be the player he has always planned on being!

  • In reply to playtwo:

    Thanks for the news. If BJax were to contribute that would make this season more watchable. He could also be in the discussion for LF long term?

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