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Yesterday we learned that Chicago Cubs third baseman Ian Stewart’s second opinion on his wrist sounded a whole lot like the first: we just don’t know what the issue is. All we know is that, after a couple serious wrist injuries in his career, he now experiences daily discomfort, which had reached the point where he could no longer play effectively. So, he received a cortisone injection, which will hopefully allow him to continue playing this year.

Unfortunately, Stewart sounds pretty down about the whole thing, which I suppose is understandable.

“My options now are just to see if this cortisone works and give it four, five days when I’m on the [disabled list] to really let it sink in and work and then slowly get a program going off the tee,” Stewart said Wednesday, according to Carrie Muskat. “If the shot works, then it’ll carry me through the season and maybe get another one in another six weeks or so. If it doesn’t, then we may have to go the other route. We’re just going to see how it feels.”

Stewart was then asked if he’ll just have to deal with discomfort for the rest of the season.

“Hopefully not,” Stewart said. “Hopefully, this works and I start playing again and hitting and it’s really a non-issue. If it gets to the point where it’s affecting my swing still, there are other options we can take, and hopefully we don’t have to take that route.”

I know that many of you aren’t the biggest Stewart fans, and he certainly hasn’t produced at the plate for the Cubs this year (even accounting for some bad luck earlier in the year). But I can’t help but be bummed seeing a guy who, coming up, was one of the top talents in baseball, now reduced to having to hope he can tolerate a serious wrist problem with cortisone injections long enough to finish out a season. If he doesn’t jack up his wrist a few years ago, and then again last year, who knows what might have been? I guess he probably never would have been on the Cubs.

As for the Josh Vitters piece, you may have thought that the question in the title was thoughtful in one direction, but it’s actually rhetorical in the other direction. Vitters isn’t getting a look for a great many reasons.

First, and foremost, he simply isn’t ready yet. Although he’s been on a hot streak of late, he’s still hitting just .280/.330/.468 in the hitter-friendly PCL. His defense is still a work in progress at third base, and he needs time to continue to hone his craft.

Second, there’s no rush. Vitters is still just 22, one of the younger players in AAA, and he’s had just 270 AAA plate appearances. Even if Vitters spent another full year from this moment on at AAA, he’d still be coming up to the big leagues as a 23-year-old who spent a year and a half in AAA. That’s completely normal. It’s always felt like Vitters was slowly developing because he was drafted at just 17, and the expectations put on the kid selected third overall in 2007 were sky high. He’s always been young for his level, and that would be exceedingly true if he tried to break into the bigs right now.

Vitters might be the long-term future at third base, and he might not be. But rushing him to the big leagues right now simply because Ian Stewart is hurt would almost certainly do more harm than good for his development.

  • Chris

    Good points on Vitters Brett. Granted they were drafted in different rounds, but look at the path Rizzo has taken in comparison. He was also a kid drafted out of high school in 2007. It took him through last season to reach the majors, and clearly he wasn’t quite ready at that time. While he’s ahead of Vitters, it took him a few years to develop. The main difference being he didn’t have the expectations of being a high 1st round pick. Not to say he’ll be a mashing power hitter like Rizzo, but he still has some time to develop, and it seems like he is moving in the right direction.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Rizzo probably isn’t the best comparison for Vitters.  Remember, Rizzo lost an entire year to cancer, and thus he is really a year behind Vitters in development.  Also, Rizzo has a very different set of hitting tools: Rizzo is the classic “selectively aggressive” type, with high walk (and K) rates to go with good power; Vitters is the “high contact aggressive” type with low walk (and K) rates to go with OK power.

      The “expectations” aspect probably is/was irrelevant: we always skate on very thin ice when we presume to understand anybody’s psychology, and we can always spin the exact opposite psychological story from the same facts whenever we want to do so.

      In a big way, Rizzo and Vitters offer exemplary contrasts betweenJed & Theo’s concept of a good prospect and Jim Hendry’s concept of a good prospect.

      • Chris

        I guess I didn’t mean to compare their talents. And clearly nobody thought Rizzo was going to be this much of an impact prospect, otherwise he wouldn’t have lasted until the 6th round that year. My main point was high school players usually need time to develop, regardless of draft position. I’ve seen the Cubs rush too many young players and watched those players, just as quickly, wash out. As Cubs fans, we’re going to need to be patient. Almora, Soler, and other guys that Theo/Jed sign from here on out are not going to get to the majors soon. While they might get to add a few ready-made major leaguers in trades, once the big chips fall it’s going to be a slow progression. Enjoy Rizzo and Castro and let’s see if any of these other guys can get here in September.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          I guess that I am still skeptical of the “rushing” paradigm.  I am of the opinion that the Cubs simply used bad criteria in selecting their players, and that they drafted too many guys with tools that could only dominate miLB pitching.

          • mul21

            I think it’s less the rushing them thing than it is a failure to properly develop the skills they have and instill some additional things where they may be lacking. That aside, MacPhail/Hendry’s regime did rush guys unnecessarily.

            • DocPeterWimsey

              The key tool that most of the failed Cubs prospects lacked was batting eye.  Nobody knows how to teach that.  That being said, the couple of Cubs prospects who did show exceptional batting eyes (e.g., Choi) were not appreciated by Cubs management.

              Ultimately, I am having problems remembering who all of these guys were, anyway.  Most of the failed Cubs prospects that I can recall never even got to MLB, or got there in their mid-20’s with no more delusions about All-Star futures.

              • WGNstatic

                Doc,
                I agree with almost everything you write, but I do have to disagree on the contention that the previous regime didn’t appreciate Choi.

                He was a highly touted prospect and was a main driver in letting Mark Grace leave (yes, we could discuss whether Grace was appreciated sufficiently by the previous regime as a OBP first type player).

                Sure, Choi was traded, but he was swapped for D-Lee, which was a logical deal to bring in a more sure thing, MLB experienced 1B at a time when the Cubs were in a competitive window. What’s more, you could argue that D-Lee was a pretty classic “Theo/Jed” kind of 1B that Hendry acquired.

                I certainly wouldn’t argue your bigger point in contrasting Hendry’s and Theo/Jed’s emphasis on working counts etc.

                • DocPeterWimsey

                  You might be correct.  Dusty Baker certainly did not appreciate Choi, but that’s not the same as Hendry not doing so.  That being said, Hendry did not force Baker to play Choi over the various “proven veterans” that Dusty liked.

                  Of course, it turns out that Choi’s wrist never recovered from surgery.  So, Hendry might have been cutting bait there.

                  So, I stand at least partially and perhaps completely corrected!

            • Chris

              Bad scouting is certainly a key factor in why prospects haven’t developed for the Cubs. Still, I think patience on Vitters isn’t a bad thing. Same with Jackson, although I’m less enthused with what I’ve seen from Jackson this year than Vitters. In both cases, batting eye is a key skill they have deficiencies in. And the last two phenoms, Patterson and Pie, had the same problem. But, Pie and Patterson were also both called up earlier than perhaps they were ready to be. Plus when they got to Chicago, they weren’t playing every day. Why bother bringing guys up and not playing them? Vitters is showing improvement in virtually all of the statistical categories. Maybe he can come up in September. If not, I’m not worried. They have stop gap measures ahead of him, and plenty of infield prospects behind him if he washes out. Choi’s problem wasn’t so much his batting eye. It was the gapping hole in his long, slow, swing. Baker didn’t do him any favors either. But he was a success for the player they traded him for, DLee. What the Cubs need to do is draw media attention to all their prospects, and then selectively trade the ones that don’t measure up to their standards without telegraphing the fact that they have lost faith in some guys. The Braves and Yankees seem to always do this the best.

              • MichCubFan

                Bad scouting is one thing…you need to draft the right guys obviously.

                But they have been worse at developing guys. You need to teach these 18-24 years olds what they need to know to get to the big leagues. They cannot just get there on talent alone. The Cubs have been absolutely horrendous at developing their system for as long as i can remember.

              • Drew7

                Jackson definitely doesnt lack a batting eye. Jackson and Vitters have opposite deficiencies; BJax lacks a hit tool w a plus batting eye, while Vitters has a plus hit tool while lacking a batting eye.

                At this point, it looks like Jackson’s bad tool is a little worse than Vitters’, though

  • North Side Irish

    I always felt like people were too harsh on Vitters because they’d been hearing about him for so long. If he had gone to college, he would have been in last year’s draft and no one would be ready to give up on him yet. Plus it didn’t help that he was drafted one pick before an All Star catcher.

    Still likely he ends up as a major leaguer, probably only a league average 3B offensively, but could be more. Worst case he ends up as a super utility guy who can play 1B/3B/LF and provide some pop off the bench. Not what he was drafted to be, but still a useful part of a team.

    I am by no means saying he’s turned out as expected and I don’t think he will ever live up to his draft status. But he has always been young for his level and he has kept progressing. I just think it’s ridiculous for people to be writing him off already.

    • GoldFinch

      I don’t think anybody is writing Vitters off. I don’t think there is ANY possibility of seeing him this year though.(Based on Theo’s philosophy of plate appearances in AAA)

    • CastrotoBarneytoLaHair

      I remember the talk around that draft was “Vitters is the most MLB hitter ready” than anyone else in the draft. That was quite a statement to make of a HS kid. So, it is understandable that the expectations were high. I am glad to see that he is still young for his level and that he is making progress. Let him stay “the normal” amount of time and see what happens. We know (Corey Patterson, Felix Pie, et al) what happens when they get rushed…

      • DocPeterWimsey

        There was a real “old school” vs. “new school” split on Vitters even when he was drafted.  As you note, the old-schoolers loved his swing and his contact skills.  However, the new-schoolers were very leery of the fact that they got to see that beautiful swing on nearly every pitch.

        As for Patterson, leaving him in the minors would not have fixed his primary flaw: he simply had no clue where the pitch was in relation to the strike zone.  And as for Pie, we really cannot call him rushed: he basically did one level per year.  We should really worry about prospects who have to repeat levels.

    • Spriggs

      His headstone will someday read, “Josh was always young for his age…”

  • cubspong

    Might as well keep giving Valbuena a chance. Do you have any idea why Cardenas has not been given much of an opportunity? Theo and the cubs must not think he’s part of the future when the cubs are ready to contend.

  • Ivy Walls

    Problem with MLB first round draft picks are they are mixed metaphors to other sports like NBA or NFL. MLB is a complex game where except for a relief pitcher a player must be able to perform as a generalist, meaning—fielding ( multiple game situations per pitch), running (again multiple game situations per ball in play), throwing (multiple game situations with ball in play and runners in motion) and of course hitting; (multiple game situations with the count, pitcher’s dynamic approach and game approach, runners in motion) on top of being prepared athletically and managing constant travel and a 30 person community.

    All other sports except maybe hockey players tend to hone in on their athletic talent within a particular system, where they are essentially in control while baseball is a response sport. Pitcher has the most control because he starts it and if he is dominate keeps the ball out of play (see K Wood and strike outs) but a player as in Vitters has to respond to pitchers, position of defenders, and also adjust and understand game situations. Fielding wise is a whole altogether level of development. This on top of developing the maturity to properly prepare for each game, travel and positively integrate with group of players.

    Rushing Vitters can destroy all the mental fundamentals that need to mature. We are seeing it in Castro, though he has so much talent but I can see how much more Castro needs to develop. He has to be able to better manage his AB counts and then look for his pitch to drive. His fielding has so much more to go and yet he is maybe an All Star….more

    Big picture: We live in a PCL town and often go to the $2 for Tuesday’s game (greatest value in pro baseball, $2 seats, parking and beers), anyway I happen to watch the Reno Aces (D-Backs) AAA team managed by a former high school acquaintance Brett Butler who I ran into the following morning. I complimented him on how good his team is (2 regulars hitting over .400 and 2 others hitting above .360, they got a 3B, Wheeler who has real power and seems to be a fair glove who bats LH’d, he is a real find!) good base running and defense where they had comeback from a 6-2 deficit the night we watched them. After reminiscing of our youth he asked me about my fan appreciation for the Cubs new regime. He then said the old Cubs never really used their AAA team as a development place (like how D-Backs, Atlanta, LAD, Boston, among others do), but he could already see how at this level they were implementing development programs.

  • Jack Weiland

    Headline fakeout? You dog!

    • Jack Weiland

      If you’re going to do that in the future can we get a “PSYYYYYCHE!” somewhere in the post?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      No way. I answered the question many folks were asking. :)

  • Chris

    Anybody see Chris Archer’s performance yesterday? He was outdueled by Strasburg, but he had a pretty impressive debut. I hope the Cubs are able to get a pitcher of his quality and a position player like Hak Ju Lee back in return for trading Garza. The other guys they gave up were all filler, but these two may end up being pretty good. Lee hasn’t been able to figure out AA quite yet, but he’s still just 21.

    • Jack Weiland

      Also talking about one start from Archer, and his numbers post-trade have not been overly impressive. If he walks guys the way he has in the minors I wouldn’t expect too many more starts like last night’s.

      I would want a hell of a lot more back for Garza than someone like Chris Archer and Hak Ju Lee. If that’s the market, I’d just as soon resign him to a long-term deal.

      • Chris

        I hope the market is greater as well, but I don’t think it’s realistic to believe they will sign him long-term at this point. It seems pretty clear he’s going to get moved, with so many teams interested. I was just curious if somebody actually watched Archer’s debut and had any thoughts. While the line looks good, maybe he didn’t really pitch that well. I get it was one game. I remember Lance Dickson pitching one good game at the ML level too, so I understand he can wash out after that. Those two guys are both still highly rated prospects in a Rays system that is also rated highly. If the market for Garza is better than when they pulled the trigger on that deal, then awesome. But I don’t think he’s going to be locked up long-term. This is a gut job, and he’s the best piece they have to move for younger assets.

      • Mick

        You’re over-looking what Garza would actually sign for. If it’s comparable to Danks’ 5-year $65 million extension then yes, an experienced top of the rotation type SP, at around $16 annually is good value. And if the Cubs’ have the option to sign Garza at that price in their back pocket, it would take a thieves ransom to take him away from us. BUT, if Garza is asking for around $20 million/season then I think the Cubs can lower their expectations on a trade return knowing they won’t re-sign him for that amount.

        BTW, Lee, Archer, and Guyer are the Rays’ 1st, 2nd, and 12th best prospects according to MLB.com. I’d be happy as a clam with this type of return from any team in either of the two scenarios I listed above.

        • Jack Weiland

          I’d be happy with a 1st, 2nd and 12th from Toronto’s system, not this one.

          And anyway, Baseball Prospectus had them at 2, 8 and 14 before the season. I’m more inclined to side with that view.

  • BD

    Feels like a slow day today, but I read a recent article by Rosenthal on why the Mariners should trade King Felix. So…

    Would you trade Castro for Felix Hernandez?

    Also- how would a trade like that work out? Who would need to add what (if anything) to make it work?

    • blublud

      If Castro coming up as Cub has anything to do with it, then No, I wouldn’t.

      BUT, as far talent for talent, yes I make that deal a million times out of a million. To get an ace who will give you 230+ innings, as many strike outs, low whip and not many homeruns, I would trade Castro without thinking twice.

    • EQ76

      If we had someone good and ready to take over SS and do a decent job, then heck yes I’d make that trade.

  • blublyd

    I agree, Vitters is not ready. However, I’m not 100% down with promoting a player slowly. Lets take Baez as an example. He needs to be promoted now. As long as he is playing against inferior competition, he will NOT know which part of his game needs work before he reaches the majors. If a player is hitting at the rate he is currently hitting, he needs to be promoted no more the 1 to 2 months after reaching that level. If he moves through the minors in less then a year, so be it. Some guys are just that good. ARod is a good example. I understand and agree with not bringing up Rizzo. Why waste a year, right. But when it comes to moving a player through the minors, there should be no timetable. It should be based strickly off of talent, ability and performance.

    • Drew7

      Jay? Is that you?

    • Lance Dickson

      With Vitters, would his development actually benefit from a promotion? It would bring him into daily contact with Sveum and the new hitting coach. It appears that he has the tools to be a good defensive player, but needs some fixing. Sveum did it for Castro. Could he do it for Vitters too? Maybe this new hitting coach is the guy to get through to Vitters? This is a lost season for the team, so they can afford to work on development of their players. It could be that the best coaches to develop Vitters are with the major league team. If so, promote him up to work with them? At least for a stint?

      • GoldFinch

        Not happening.

      • T Wags

        He will get that instruction in spring training next year. In the mean time, he will have to make due with our (hopefully) improved AAA managing staff and hopefully make strides through the 2nd half of the season.

  • Rich

    Been a chiropractor for 15 years. If there is no significant tear of a ligament in the wrist, then send Ian to a local chiropractor. I have treated similar symptoms for years. Simple adjustment can do wonders. If there is a small tear, I would never recommend surgery. My friend who is an M.D. performs pro-lo therapy. Specifically PRP grafting. Google it, it is amazing. I tore my hamstring tendon at the butt bone. 2 sessions of PRP and I was able to become pain free and run marathons again.

    Just an FYI, for those who can tell Ian, that my brand of chiropractic is ready to help my Chicago Cubs!

    • Tim

      im sure the cubs have their own specialists lined up. lol. and if it were as simple as a simple adjustment, im sure the guys that ian has been sent to could have figured that out for themselves.

      • Spriggs

        Don’t be so sure. A chiropractor correctly diagnosed a spinal condition of mine that was missed by 2 neuro surgeons and two orthopedic surgeon/specialists.

  • mudge

    Yes, there’s a great divorce between types of practitioners. I won’t go to an MD unless I break a bone. An MD would look at the wrist, a chiropractor / acupuncturist would promote healing through alignment / stimulating the nerve meridians – treating systems rather than symptoms. Stewart’s problem might easily be translated from neck/shoulder. Not going to argue further here, but did write Mr Stewart a letter at Wrigley Field. Whatever treatment he gets, I hope he gets well.

  • Jzwizard

    It is weird to see a little of depth starting to grow here in the Cubs system. Some of our top prospects include Lake, Vitters, and Baez. Well only 2 of those 3 can be on the team long term and same in the outfield with Soler, Almora (Hopefully), Sczur, and Jackson. I wonder how long the front office will wait to look to trade some of them to add depth at other positions.

  • gary

    Why didnt we give colvin a chance this year. He is doing well in colorado. He would have been a power hitting rf. It looks like we lost that trade.

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