Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein joined the franchise in October 2011. One of his first moves came when he didn’t re-sign third baseman Aramis Ramirez. Epstein went with Ian Stewart, who was acquired in a trade with the Colorado Rockies.
Stewart struggled in 2012. In 179 at-bats, Stewart had a .201 batting average with five home runs and 17 RBI. He missed most of the season after he underwent wrist surgery in July.
Luis Valbuena finished the season with most of the playing time at third base. In 265 at-bats, Valbuena had a .219 batting average with four home runs and 28 RBI. Valbuena and Stewart are both expected to compete for the 2013 Opening Day start at third base.
Ramirez joined the Milwaukee Brewers. In his first season with that team, Ramirez had a .300 batting average with 27 home runs and 105 RBI. His numbers were much stronger in the second half of the season. Along with Ryan Braun, the Brewers have one of the best No. 3 and No. 4 hitter combos in baseball.
Stewart has yet to produce. For Cubs fans, it’s even more frustrating because of how Tyler Colvin has performed with the Rockies. In 420 at-bats, Colvin had a .290 batting average with 18 home runs and 72 RBI. Those numbers are skewed because he played at hitter-friendly Coors Field. At home, Colvin had a .338 batting average with 11 home runs and 50 RBI.
What does the future hold? The Cubs are banking on their farm system. Josh Vitters, Junior Lake and Javier Baez should each get an opportunity before 2015. Vitters and Baez are former first-round picks. In 2012, Vitters made his MLB debut. In 99 at-bats, Vitters had a .121 batting average with two home runs and five RBI. He’ll start 2013 at Triple-A Iowa.
As far as production from third basemen in 2013? Expect another tough year at Wrigley Field.