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.