The Chicago Cubs are in Mesa right now preparing for the 2013 season. Whether you like it or not, veterans Ian Stewart and Luis Valbuena are the pair that will be competing for the third base job. The hope is that the current Cubs front office did not trade away Tyler Colvin for nothing, banking on the chance that Stewart regains at least some of the productive and power form he featured in Colorado before being hit with a wrist injury. Meanwhile Valbuena figures to be the insurance plan at the hot corner, as he was last season, while also providing infield depth off the bench at second base and shortstop, in that order.
What about Josh Vitters? The organization and Cubs fans alike got a glimpse of the long awaited prospect at the end of last season. The next big thing at third base for the North Siders was known to have a Major League ready bat being held back by weak glove work. Ironically, at Wrigley Field Vitters showed the ability to hold his own at the hot corner while struggling to hit.
But early eye brows were raised when it was made known that the Cubs were inviting top prospect Javier Baez to camp. The public statement from the front office was that they wanted to give the youngster a glimpse of what to expect for Major League Spring Training sessions going forward. Baez quickly made a splash in the minors in Peoria, hitting 12 home runs and collecting 33 RBI to go with a .333 batting average and .383 OBP in just 57 games at the A level. He proceeded to struggle when promoted to Daytona, but the hype appears to be real.
With the early invite to Spring after just one full season of pro ball, you have to wonder if Baez and Vitters are already competing for the 2015 third base job here in Spring 2013. Like Vitters, Baez’s glove will be the one that holds back his seemingly inevitable debut in the Majors. However this is at his natural position as short stop. Regardless of the strides he makes on defense, his ceiling on the defensive side of the game will not be high enough to displace All Star Starlin Castro from short.
The early prediction is that Baez will slide over to third, where the Cubs currently do not have a long term option cemented in. For Vitters’ benefit, he figures to break camp heading to the minors to continue to get him the at bats and reps at third. A good or even great Spring worthy of making the 25 man roster will not help Vitters’ long term development, especially if he will be rotting on the bench as a third stringer behind Stewart and Valbuena. But Vitters will have to show that the promise and potential is still within him to keep Baez at bay.
Spring Training is all about seeing how players are progressing towards the regular season, as well as catching a glimpse of the future. This Spring Cubs fans should keep an eye on Baez and Vitters if they want to fast forward to what to expect in 2015.