Does Vitters have an impact in 2014 and beyond?

Does Vitters have an impact in 2014 and beyond?

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.

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    Ok, Maybe the Cubbies could use her this season?

  • Last time he was up he looked like he lacked strength...maybe an off season conditioning program would help. Hopefully he can be our extra right handed bat in the outfield. It would be terrific if he succeeds from our system.

  • Vitters has enough talent that he could be a very good hitter in his prime if he wants it badly enough, works hard and gets opportunities. But he's not so talented that he's going to take the league by storm in 2014.

    If he had some defensive value the Cubs would likely be a lot more patient with him and he'd get some opportunities...but the problem is that he's basically a one-way player. And he's not a huge plus offensively, either.

    Vitters hasn't overwhelmed anyone with his attitude and work ethic, although he has put up good numbers in the minors when they gave him a chance to advance at a one year per level pace. The guy can hit. He's also made some strides with his approach--I don't think it's really fair to compare him to Castro, because Vitters has improved his walk rate the last two years, while Castro has shown that he isn't really capable of adjusting his approach.

    One thing Vitters has going for him is that the Cubs don't have a single outfielder who is even MLB average in terms of their production (for an outfielder). Vitters is likely a similar hitter to Schierholtz at this point (the projected slash line is pretty similar to what Schierholtz did in '13--moreso when you add a little power for the platoon advantage).

    Vitters probably has enough arm for RF and would make a good platoon partner for Schierholtz--who definitely needs to be platooned. Since they're similar hitters, they could be plugged into the same spot in the lineup, as an added convenience.

    It's in the Cubs best interest to give Vitters a shot at establishing himself in some capacity. Even if he's not a long term solution for them, if he can establish himself at the MLB level, that boosts his value greatly. The Cubs need to add value however they can, and Vitters--unlike the Schierholtzes and Bogusevics of the world--is young and still has some potential to be good in his prime if things click for him.

    Most likely, though, Vitters--as an outfielder--will be a similar player to someone like Jeff Francoeur. A guy who can put the ball in play with some authority, but who isn't a true power hitter and doesn't walk enough to have a lot of offensive value for an OF corner.

  • I dont know how Vitters figure into the Cubs plan with Lake, Almora and Soler. With Almora and Soler probably coming up in the 14 season in Sept and probably starters in 15. So where will Vitters fit in?

    Even moreso what if they switch Beaz to the outfield?

  • In reply to BullySixChicago:

    Never a bad idea to have extra trade bait, even if Vitters' value has taken a hit. He's still young.

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