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.
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