2012 was an important season for the Chicago Cubs. For as much grief as naive Cubs fans want to give the Cubs for their 100+ losses this season, Cubs’ President Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer have had several successes this season with the Cubs. One of the biggest successes–or accomplishments–that Epstein and Hoyed achieved this season was the promotions of both third baseman Josh Vitters and center fielder Brett Jackson.
Now, there has been much debate as to whether or not Jackson and Vitters were ready for their promotions to the Major League level. But, that does not make me question that decision that the Cubs made to allow Vitters and Jackson to play the final two months of the regular season with the Chicago Cubs. The reason the Cubs made the right decision in promoting Vitters and Jackson is because they needed to evaluate where the two players were in terms of their role on a Major league Baseball team. The Cubs have several holes to be filled this winter on their roster, and had the Cubs not promoted Jackson and Vitters, they likely would not have been fully confident in whether or not those two players were ready for the Major Leagues in 2013.
Jackson struggled initially with the Cubs, but seemed to be responding positively to the adjustments that were being offered by Cubs’ manager Dale Sveum and his coaching staff. Despite these adjustments, Jackson finished the 2012 season with a slash line of .175/.303/.342/.645. While Jackson’s offensive numbers were not ideal by the time the Cubs’ season concluded, the outfield prospect showed he does several things well including playing defense, and on the base paths.
This is what Epstein had to say about the reasoning for why the Cubs’ promoted Jackson to the Major Leagues.
“Brett Jackson was promoted for specific reasons. We sat in Dale’s (manager Sveum’s) office and those of us who had seen him play at Triple-A and those who know him a lot better than I do realized that right now, his swing is not ready to compete up here. He does a lot of other things very well. We don’t think he’s necessarily ready to succeed up here, but there were other reasons to get him up here. Dale wanted to see it firsthand. We wanted Dale and James (hitting coach Rowson) to have a chance to work with him, and we wanted to show Brett certain things, certain adjustments that he needed to make to ultimately have success at the big-league level. Daily Herald
Vitters, on the other hand, struggled in nearly every opportunity that was given to him by Sveum over the course of the final two months of the season. Vitters’ struggles eventually led to Sveum sitting the third base prospect regularly in favor of Luis Valbuena during the final weeks of the season. Vitters, who was having a productive season with the Iowa Cubs before his promotion to the Major Leagues, finished the 2012 season with a slash line of .121/.193/.202/.395 with the Chicago Cubs this season. Vitters also struggled considerably on defense as well. As the seasons have gone by, it seems like the Cubs’ faith in Vitters as their future starting third baseman has decreased. Nonetheless, Epstein indicated that Vitters is simply following a trend that he has established during his career.
“Josh Vitters is a player who struggled initially at every level that he’s advanced to. That’s Josh’s nature. It takes him a little bit longer to get comfortable. It takes him a little bit longer to learn. It takes him a little while to manage that anxiety level. So it takes longer for his skills, which I think what he does well with experience will play at any level. It takes him longer to adjust. It’s not surprising at all that coming to the big leagues maybe a little bit before he was ready that it’s not surprising to see him struggle and struggle pretty dramatically. That’s to be expected. Daily Herald
After reading the reviews on Jackson and Vitters by Epstein, it would almost seem that the Cubs promoted both prospects to the Major Leagues so they could struggle. For instance, with Vitters, Epstein admitted that he expected Vitters’ to struggle but wanted the third baseman to be comfortable with life in the Major Leagues. Meanwhile, with Jackson, it seemed as if the outfielder was promoted to the Major Leagues for the sole purpose of working with Sveum and hitting coach James Rowson on a daily basis. As was the case when Vitters and Jackson were first promoted in August, their impact was not for the 2012 season. Rather the impact of the promotions were to begin the preparations for both players to progress even further for the 2013 season. Speaking of the 2013 season, Epstein informed both players that they will begin the season with the Iowa Cubs.
Knowing that Vitters and Jackson will begin the season with the Iowa Cubs, this figures to impact the moves the Cubs’ front office looks to make this off-season. We already knew the Cubs were in the market for a third baseman, but with Jackson know believed to be starting the season with the Iowa Cubs, the Cubs will likely be in the market for an outfielder. Despite rumors to the contrary, I don’t expect left fielder Alfonso Soriano to be traded this winter. David DeJesus should also be considered among the players that will be returning to the Cubs in 2013. Meaning, the Cubs have an opening in their starting outfield picture that figures to be filled this winter.