While this may seem out of place in the middle of a Trade Deadline Blogathon, John Sickels yesterday took a deep look at Chicago Cubs’ third base prospect Josh Vitters. You’ll note throughout the trade season that the Cubs have been, from time to time, attached to various third base prospects – Mike Olt, Nick Castellanos, etc. If the Cubs were enamored with Vitters, who’s just 22 and is hitting well in AAA, you’d have to think those names wouldn’t come up.

In other words, the Cubs might not view Vitters as the long-term answer at third base. And that could make him trade bait.

In any event, here’s a snippet from Sickels’ take on Vitters:

Moved up to Triple-A Iowa for 2012, he’s hitting .303/.356/.510 with 31 doubles, 15 homers, 28 walks, and 71 strikeouts in 386 at-bats. He’s been particularly devastating against left-handed pitching, hitting .336/.383/.634 against southpaws. He’s well on his way to setting career-best marks in most categories.

So, how much of this is real and how much is Pacific Coast League statistical illusion? He’s riding a higher BABIP this year, .338 compared to .290 last season, which is part of the difference. His walk rate is up considerably, 6.7% of plate appearances compared to 4.5% last year. However, his strikeout rate is up as well, moving from 11.1% to 16.9%, granted that’s still a good strikeout rate for a guy with some power.

In league-context terms, Vitters has a +11 percent OPS compared to the rest of the Pacific Coast League. That’s not bad but it isn’t terrific either, especially for a corner player, although it does represent improvement compared to 2011, when he posted a +4 percent mark in Double-A. It is much better than the -7 percent mark he posted in ’10, so the trend lines for his production are certainly up.

Sickels offers a whole lot more than that, and it’s well worth a read. Ultimately, he thinks Vitters looks like he has regained top ten status in the Cubs’ system (which is saying something considering the moves they’ve already made this year), but questions whether his rough defense at third base will move him off the position to somewhere that he doesn’t fit quite as well (or doesn’t produce well enough for).

Taken together, you could understand why the Cubs would be reluctant to expect that Vitters is their third baseman of the future. But, man, wouldn’t it be nice to have that position locked down for the next few years by a guy who is in the same age range as the theoretical Castro/Rizzo/Jackson core?

  • Alec

    Thank you for showing some love to Bjax. Im real high on him and it’s just a bummer that he’s no longer considered in our top prospects

    • Alec

      And vitters is swell too.

  • Cubbie Tim

    Let’s hope he’s not Kevin Orie

    • Cubbie Tim

      We just had Jerome Walter as catcher.

      • Cubbie Tim

        Can Luis Salazar still play? Or maybe Steve Bueschele, Dave Hanson, or nefi Perez. Let us hope Vitters is for real. Please lord.

  • Ben

    I am troubled by BJAX strikeout rate but I am excited to see what Vitters can do…..I remember when I was hoping to hell Cubs would draft Wieters….I guess I was a little wrong on perennial all-star catcher but I still hated it when they let him slip and due to financial reasons if I am not mistaken……(I hope that made since I am tired as hell and in lots of pain)

  • Cubbie Tim

    We could’ve had maur over prior. Not sure

    • Richdanna

      This is almost as bad as “We had Josh Hamilton”…

      • Cubbie Tim

        Yes we did for a day. Rule 5

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          More like three minutes.

    • Edwin

      Not sure if serious…The twins drafted Mauer in front of the Cubs. So, no, we couldn’t have had Mauer over Prior. At all.

  • Mike

    Vitters needs a long leash. He always struggles upon moving up to each new level then adjusts. If given time he will be a good major league hitter. However, his future will either be in the cubs outfield or on another team as Baez or Candalerio will eventually push him from 3b. Soler Almora and Szczur will push him from the OF as well. But for the next 3 or so seasons till then he will be a good ball player for us.

  • Alec

    “But for the next 3 or so seasons till then he will be a good ball player for us.” great statement. I don’t think we’re looking for the next Santo.

    • Mike

      Yeah not the next Santo for sure. 3b is what I believe to be a position of strength though within our system. Would really rather see us target a front line catcher like d’Arnaud than a guy like Olt in a Garza deal.

  • Cubbie Tim

    Here’s something totally off pace. What about that HR Glenallen Hill on the rooftops. I know very random. Or Sosa breaking the window. I miss Sosa

  • Scotti

    That Hill shot was a poke regardless of the wind. Crushed!

  • Cubbie Tim

    Let’s trade David DeJesus & keep Kim… Just saying

  • wayner21

    Let the official youth movement begin. Let’s see Vitters at 3rd base everyday (Luis Vizcaino needs to go), with Castillo at catcher, BJax in the outfield instead of the struggling LaHair. I loved Reed Johnson, but I am really glad I didn’t have to see him starting in the outfield everday if the Cubs do end up trading Soriano.

  • Jimmy james

    While I too tire of valbuena at third, vitters is not ready……maybe next June/ July if he keeps progressing

  • Scotti

    The “youth movement” will be anything but. You’re going to see 29-y/o AAAA guys instead of top prospects.

  • Deez

    Vitters deserves the opportunity. Whether it’s PCL puffery or not, he has improved offensively + look at our current options. He can’t do any worse.