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When the Chicago Cubs made high schooler Josh Vitters the third overall pick in the 2007 draft, there was no doubt that they’d made the right choice. Vitters had the best pure swing the draft had seen in years, and had already raked with a wooden bat in all-star circuits with players several years his senior.

Flash-forward three years, and there’s doubt.

After an early-season promotion to AA Tennessee, Vitters struggled mightily to adjust to the advanced pitching of the upper levels of the minor leagues. He managed a meager .223/.292/.383 line in 63 games before a broken middle finger on his left hand ended his season. Now, Vitters is trying to get things going again in the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League.

“I was starting to feel real good at Double-A, I was starting to hit well, so it was unfortunate,” Vitters said of the timing of the injury. “I’m just glad to be out here playing against the same type of competition and getting ready for Spring Training.”

One of the reasons he felt better at the plate was because Tennessee manager Bill Dancy moved Vitters to the three-hole in the lineup.

“I was bouncing around, but toward the last month or so in Double-A, I was hitting third,” Vitters said. “That’s where I like to hit, where I’ve always hit. I feel comfortable there. I’d definitely like to hit there in the future.”

It’s where Vitters, 21, hit with Cypress High School in California when he batted .390 his senior season, prior to being drafted by the Cubs.

“I’ve hit in that position my whole life,” he said during an interview last week at HoHoKam Stadium in Mesa, Ariz. “Maybe I feel a little more confident when I’m hitting in a spot like that in the lineup. That may have helped me out.”

Once the AFL season is over, Vitters, who has a .275 average in the Minors, will join “Colvin Camp” in Mesa, which are workout sessions run by Cubs strength and conditioning coach Tim Buss. Outfielder Tyler Colvin benefited from the daily drills and will be back for his second year in late November. cubs.com.

I think we can all agree that, if Vitters takes the kind of step forward that Colvin did in last year’s offseason, we’ll all be very happy.

It’s worth mentioning that Vitters just turned 21 this August, so there’s plenty of time for him to continue to develop. And even in his AA struggles, there were signs of encouragement. He struck out 41 times in his 63 games (which is not good), but he walked 13 times (which is a big step forward for him). His IsoD was a very respectable .069, and his IsoP was a healthy .160. That means if he gets his average up around .300 – more than possible for a kid with his swing – he’d be looking at a .300/.369/.460 line. And the power, mind you, will only improve.

The future is still bright for Josh Vitters, even if there’s now that tiny bit of doubt in the back of our minds.

  • Bric

    Ace, I realize you’re a cup half full type of guy but I don’t understand why you keep pumping up Vitters. The Cubs have a terrible recent history of drafting 18 year old phenoms and he’s the next in line. Examples: Corey Patterson, Mark Pawalek, Ryan Harvey, Brian Dopirek, Luis Montanez, Felix Pie and a bunch of others. Trade him now while there’s still some teams that will give a decent return. This kids is a hyped up strike out machine. He might have a future big league career but it won’t be with the Cubs.

    • Ace

      Strictly speaking, the flameouts of Patterson, Pawalek, Harvey, Dopirak (second rounder), Montanez, and Pie have nothing to do with whether Vitters succeeds or fails – I believe that’s the gambler’s fallacy, but I’d have to hit up Wikipedia to be sure.

      That said, I’m not trying to be unrealistically optimistic about Vitters. He has certainly not developed as we’d like, given his pre-draft hype. But he’s still just 21 (barely). That alone leaves me some room for optimism.

      • Kevin G

        Ace, I have a plan to add more power on the Cubs then they have had in years for this season. I just wish I could get a leadoff man.

        Here is my idea trade

        Trade Dewitt, Gorz and Wells, Coleman or Jay Jackson to the DBacks for Mark Reynolds.

        Then in a Three way deal with the Angels and Padres

        Angels get A-Ram and about 7 or 8 mil

        Cubs get Gonzalez

        Padres get Vitters, Cashner or Carpenter, and Tony Campana or Guyer from the Cubs and Mark Trumbo and Jean Segura from the Angels.

        This one only works if it’s trade and sign.

        And then we try and sign Hudson to play 2nd.

        We would need to get rid of Fukudome contract as a just salary dump.

        • Ace

          That’s an awful lot to give up for Gonzalez and Reynolds to wind up without DeWitt, Gorz, Wells and ARam. Not bad, though.

          • Kevin G

            But could you image that 3 and 4 combo. Both player are just year replaced from having 40 HRs.

          • Kevin G

            Also we have enough starting pitching to get away.

  • pfk

    Strikeouts and suspect glove aside, another worry is that Vitters seems to be injury prone. I don’t think he has made it through a full season yet or even finished a season at any level. You can learn to hit and learn to field but you can’t do anything about being injury prone.

    • Bric

      True, and the Cubs have shown little patience in allowing players to fully heal as A-ram, Kevin Gregg, Woody, Jon Leiber, and the Canadian pitcher we got from the A’s (I already forgot his name) will attest.

      • rylan

        Rich Harden.

        • Ace

          Seth Rogen.

    • Ace

      You also can’t do anything about getting hit in the hand with a pitch, though…

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