The Cubs once had a top 100 prospect at 3B. The player had that rare pretty right handed swing. Unfortunately problems defensively at the hot corner forced the player to move to the outfield. The player struggled in a short time with the Cubs to hit above the Mendoza line and was promptly pushed out of the Cubs plans for the future. That player is, of course, David Kelton.
Josh Vitters is trying hard to avoid becoming David Kelton redux. He is working this winter on converting to left field full time, and is presumably in the mix for an outfield spot given the plethora of fourth outfielders types the Cubs currently have on the roster. The problem for Josh Vitters is that this long overdue position changes puts an even greater emphasis on his bat.
Vitters' sweet swing has not led to amazing numbers in the minor leagues, albeit as usually one of the youngest players in the league at each stop. He has had some productive stops along the way, but he never developed the power that had been hoped for when he was drafted at 17. Vitters never filling out is just one problem with him sticking at a bat first spot like left field. The other issue is that Vitters plate discipline rates in the Starlin Castro range and he doesn't have the same ability to put the bat on the ball that Castro does. So all of those issues led to a Steamer projection of .255/.306/.419 slash line for 2014 which is probably the high end of reasonable expectations.
The suggestion has been that Vitters might be a good platoon partner for Nate Schierholtz, Ryan Sweeney or Brian Bogusevic. Vitters has done well against left handed pitches throughout his minor league career. In 2012, Vitters posted a .276/.320/.519 slash line against left handers compared to a .264/.327/.417 against right handers. His minor league numbers continually show at least a 50 point increase in OPS when batting with the platoon advantage. Vitters slash numbers would like improve in this role. That is if he can handle playing the short end of a platoon.
The problem with that is that many players struggle with the infrequent playing time involved in the short side of a platoon. Last year Scott Hairston and Dave Sappelt both greatly underwhelmed getting very irregular at bats. Josh Vitters might have an even tougher time with that given what we know about him. Vitters has routinely struggled as he has adjusted to each level. After a period of floundering, he has seen his way to greatly improved production. The infrequent at bats as the short side of a platoon probably would make it difficult for him to make the necessary adjustments.
Josh Vitters is talented, and it is hard to write off a player that had such promise. He is still going to be just 24 next season, and perhaps there is so untapped potential left. But it seems unlikely that Josh Vitters is going to make an impact in Chicago next year or any time in the future.