Holy Smokes! Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters to Be Called Up Today (UPDATE: Baker Dealt, Campana Optioned)

Wow. It’s ok to be very excited about this.

After just this morning writing that the Chicago Cubs’ two top prospects at AAA Iowa – center fielder Brett Jackson and third baseman Josh Vitters – would be the subject of discussion for the next few weeks as the Cubs ponder their promotion schedule, it looks like the Cubs decided to step on the gas. According to miCubs, and later confirmed by Carrie Muskat, today, the Cubs have called up both Jackson and Vitters, for the series finale against the Dodgers.

There’s no word on corresponding roster moves (Jackson is not yet on the 40-man roster, by the way), but I think some safe guesses would be a Luis Valbuena DFA and Tony Campana heading back to Iowa. Joe Mather is probably also on the roster bubble. It’s possible there’s a trade in the works, too, but we’ve heard nothing about that right now.

It’s a bit earlier than either Jackson or Vitters was expected to arrive (Vitters does not yet have a full year at AAA, and Jackson hasn’t had a blow-out year he was expected to have there), but it’s not outrageously early for either one. Clearly, the Cubs have decided it’s time to see what they have in the two young men, on whom they might rely in 2013. Evaluating youngsters in September, when rosters expand, is always a tricky business, because the team is frequently playing another team full of its own youngsters. Calling the duo up now will give the Cubs both better data andmore data upon which to make their offseason decisions. It sounds like a very Theo/Jed/Jason move.

Jackson, 23, is ostensibly hitting decently at AAA Iowa: .256/.338/.479. But that line comes with a couple huge caveats. His BABIP is .372, which is higher than his career average (though, to be sure, Jackson will always have an elevated BABIP relative to the rest of the league, thanks to his speed, his left-handedness, and his high rate of line drives). And, relatedly, he’s striking out in more than a third of his plate appearances. I really can’t overstate how troubling that is. He does play quality outfield defense, and runs the bases extremely well, so there’s value there. But if he can’t get that strikeout rate down below 30%, he isn’t going to hit .225 in the bigs, and the value of his secondary skills becomes largely irrelevant (in other words, he becomes a slower Drew Stubbs).

Vitters, 22, is hitting .304/.356/.513 at AAA Iowa, where he is a bit young for the level. He’s walking more than ever, and showing more power than ever. Though you always have to take PCL numbers with a grain of salt, it’s fair to say Vitters is having the best offensive season of his career. The issue with him, however, has long been the defense at third base. Scouts say he just doesn’t have it – decent arm, but weak range and lead hands. I’m waiting to see for myself before passing judgment, but his 21 errors in just 95 games at third base this year certainly don’t impress.

Each will almost certainly become full-time players immediately (otherwise, what’s the point?). Vitters slots in easily at third, and Jackson probably takes over in center with David DeJesus moving back to right field. Bryan LaHair, unless there’s a trade, might be eating some bench.

As for contract stuff, you needn’t worry: the call-ups come long after the cut-off for making sure the Cubs get an extra year of control over each (assuming they stay up from here on out, neither would be eligible for free agency until after 2018), and after the likely cut-off for Super Two status (i.e., neither will get four years of arbitration, instead getting just three (that saves the Cubs money if they become quality players)).

I’m pretty excited to see these guys in action, and you should be, too. But make sure you ground that excitement in reality: there is no reason to expect that these two will tear up the bigs immediately (like, for example, Anthony Rizzo). And, even if they do, there is always a period of regression as the league adjusts. These final two months of the year will be as much about evaluation and learning as they are about putting up great stats. They might struggle. Badly. But it’s still going to be fun to see them on the big club, and it’s going to be good to get a better idea of how they might perform if they were counted on to be starters in 2013.

UPDATE: The two roster moves are, as guessed, Tony Campana heading down to Iowa, and (as not guessed) Jeff Baker being traded to the Detroit Tigers. At Iowa, Campana can slide back into Brett Jackson’s now-vacated starting spot in center field, and can get regular work. To the right team, Campana has so much value on the bench. That team, however, right now, is not the Chicago Cubs.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

81 responses to “Holy Smokes! Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters to Be Called Up Today (UPDATE: Baker Dealt, Campana Optioned)”

  1. J R

    I know most of the regulars on this site give Jackson very little chance of succeeding at the plate in the show at this point in his career. But I really hope he finds a way to beat the odds, and fix his k rate to some degree in the majors. If he does he would it would be a huge shot in the arm to the future of the Cubs.

  2. Jeff1969

    Hopefully, really seriously hopefully, they both create some trade & or field value for themselves & the Cubs. The Drew Stubbs comparison just about ruined my day though. Oh boy.

    1. Crockett

      Yeah…reality sucks. And reality is that Jackson is likely a 4th OFer. :-/

      1. J R

        Ha.. Yeah but we are due some good luck after the trade deadline fiasco Crockett. The Iowa team was terrible this year, and I am sure he was disappointed about being down there at AAA and losing constantly. Maybe he just lost his focus this year. Stay positive my man..

        1. Crockett

          The stats tell me not to. So do most of the published scouts.

          1. J R

            I hear ya.. Drew Stubbs just went yard.

  3. Jeff1969

    Oh, and people, forget about Cardenas playing 3B. It ain’t gonna happen. He’s not a good fielder, but he also doesn’t have the arm. It’s like sub-Youkilis type.

  4. Jeff1969

    .907 career fielding % at 3B for Cardenas & the weak arm.

  5. Joepoe321

    Could soriano be traded to Detroit with baker(Jackson needs to start everyday

    1. Crockett

      Cubs release on Twitter only mentioned Baker.

    2. David

      This deal appears to be just for Baker, but I would’t be shocked if Soriano is dealt to Detroit at some point as well, and that could effect who the PTBNL’s are.

  6. Ben

    Carrie Muskat reported that Vitters is only going to face righties! I really hope that is wrong. He should be given a chance to be the 3B not just in a platoon

    1. J R

      I really hope that is not accurate. That would make no sense what so ever.. I hope she is just making another Carrie Muskat style mistake.

  7. #1lahairfan

    I think Jackson needs more time.

  8. @cubsfantroy

    As excited as I am to see both of them up, I just wonder if it is to early. I am very happy Baker is gone though.

  9. #1lahairfan

    Jackson needs more time.

  10. Cubs1967

    absofuckinglutely!…………….

  11. Cubs1967

    and get Vitters in there……….time to move on from the .195 hitting Valbuena.

  12. loyal100more

    i think it goes without saying that both guys are gonna need some more AAA time. however a bit of major league exposure is really a win win. i mean seeing as were a bust for the playoffs and all, this is a great time to give these guys a look see. so for all with concerns as to this being too early of a call up, well its just a peek not a sunt in there growth or confidence. i love this chance to see these two guys in the show! hope they tear it up, but wont be bumed if they dont.cubs fans this is how progress moving forward looks either way right?

    1. nkniacc13

      I think its a smart move to getthem up here and see what you have. It also helps their trade value if you wish to go that route in the winter.

  13. PRcajun

    Well…I guess the future is here….oh boy….let the drinking begin.

    (if Baker is gone, I wonder if the feeling around the clubhouse is a bit like “ok, who’s next?”)

  14. calicubsfan007

    I have to wonder, does the whole firesale mentality that the Cubs seem to have now hurting the morale of the remaining players on the Cubs?

    1. Luke

      No more than their win-loss record is.

      1. calicubsfan007

        @Luke: Good point. The Cubs now look really outmatched.

  15. wayner21

    I am loving this move. If BJax and Vitters both struggle, then I could see them back at AAA next year to work on their weaknesses/flaws. That has so far seemed to work wonders for Rizzo – struggle in bigs, return to AAA to work on specific things, and then come back up more polished and ready. Sometimes it takes these high-rated prospects to fail in the big leagues for a little while in order to make them see that they need to make adjustments in the swing, etc.

  16. Rooster

    Wow, Jackson is hitting .500 with no strike outs and a walk. Let the kid play before writing him off. Maybe it’s the non stop off speed stuff of AAA that led to the Ks. Who knows. Let him play!

    1. Drew7

      Can we all just be excited now that he’s up? It will be several hundred PA’s before we know for certain what he can do, and certainly more than 3.

  17. Josh

    Woah!! I went golfing so I missed this news, I came home right as I saw a run scored. I swear on my life it said Jackson, so I used Tivo to my advantage and oh my goly it was Brett Jackson!!!