Cubs Roster Profiles: Josh Vitters
As the 2012 season approaches, Cubbies Crib is profiling each and every member of the Cubs forty man roster. Today, we are talking about Josh Vitters.
It is odd for a player who put up good numbers at Double A as one of the younger members of the league to be so divisive, but such is the fate of Josh Vitters. The 2007 first round pick has been slowed by injuries as he worked his way up the minors, but at long last he is on the doorstep of Wrigley Field. He significantly improved his game last season; if he can take similar strides forward this season he will be the Cubs starting third baseman by the end of the year.
What Vitters does best is putting the bat on the ball. What he does worst is choosing which ball on which to put the bat. The scouting reports agree that he sees the ball well, recognizes pitches, and can hit nearly any pitch he chooses to swing at. In short, his limitations are not physical. He has all the tools he needs to become a force at the plate. What he lacks is the discipline to lay off questionable pitches and wait for a ball he can crush. He hits too many infield grounders when he should be waiting for a pitch he can hammer off the wall. In 2011, we started to see those adjustments. His OBP went up, he earned a career high 22 walks, and he managed a very respectable OPS of 0.770. In the AFL, he raised that to 0.923.
The Cubs have no reason to rush Vitters and every reason to see if he can master the plate discipline that will allow him to take full advantage of his hitting ability. He will likely never be a high OBP guy, but he will always be a tough hitter to strike out. I think he should put up some fairly big numbers in the Pacific Coast League in 2012. He still needs some polish at third base, and it is not impossible that the Cubs will move him to left field full time. His bat should put up good numbers no matter where he plays, if he can master some discipline. For Vitters, 2012 is all about proving that he can be the hitter we hope he can be. If that happens, he will be a fixture in the Cubs lineup for years to come.